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Social media expert not surprised to see Twitter ‘antagonize’ NPR, PBS

Crystal Graham
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Twitter, a social media platform under the ownership of Elon Musk, has labelled National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service as “U.S. state-affiliated media” causing major news outlets to shut down their Twitter accounts.

Mike Horning, an associate professor of multimedia journalism at Virginia Tech’s School of Communication, said Musk has tried to position himself as the antidote for a tech industry that he believes has been oppressive to certain forms of speech and political views.

“He (Musk) sees the media as complicit in supporting those dominant ideologies that are favored by social media companies, so it is not surprising to see him antagonize those forms of media that he feels have not objectively reported news,” said Horning.

Horning’s research examines how communication technologies impact social attitudes and behaviors, with a current focus on the impact of “fake news” and misinformation on our democratic processes.

According to Horning, studies show that almost half of the Twitter audience gets their news from them – so Musk is gambling that “news organizations will eventually need to come back to Twitter if they want to distribute their content to their audience.

Horning said news organizations may look to TikTok as an alternative.

“News organizations must grapple with the fact that, given changes to Facebook’s algorithms, their content has less emphasis there,” said Horning. “News organizations could perhaps look to TikTok as another place to distribute their content, but with that app currently under congressional scrutiny, that may not be an ideal option.”

Horning said Musk may attract new users to the platform – primarily Independents and Republicans – to the platform by taking on “big media.”

“Musk is able to position his version of Twitter among those two demographics as a place that may be more open to an exchange of ideas,” said Horning. “That may attract new users to Twitter in the future, but so far things haven’t worked out that way.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.