In an anecdotal sense, when it comes to following the news on Twitter, the site isn’t exactly spotless. It can prove daunting to keep hashtags in your head, and even then, following people who deliver news for a living can be a mess in and of itself. Twitter hopes to fix these maladies by announcing a real-time news feed, BuzzFeed reports.
Dubbed Project Lightning, Twitter senior vice president of product Kevin Weil told BuzzFeed it’s the culmination of work done in order to bring more cohesion to how news is delivered on the platform. Curated by people with newsroom backgrounds, Project Lightning gives Twitter users the ability to follow events instead of just following people.
These curated feeds are separate from your Twitter timeline, with the project appearing as a new button on the mobile app. These feeds show users current events, with events ranging from more serious breaking news to lighthearted memes and the like. In addition, feeds will include images, videos, Vines, and Periscopes. When users get to the point where the content appears in real-time, that content will have a lightning bolt icon next to it, likely where the name “Project Lightning” came from.
“We’ve seen in the past that we have so much conversation around events,” said Twitter head of global media operations Katie Jacobs Stanton, who will be in charge of the editors tasked with curating news. “But the challenge we’ve had over the years is, although we have the world’s greatest content, it’s like having a television without a channel guide or even a remote control.”
According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who is set to step down from his position next month, Project Lightning has been in the works for quite some time instead of something that is a response to critics.
“I have no doubt that when it launches people will create a narrative that it was the result of something critical,” said Costolo. “People think I read something and then two months later we launched something — but that’s not the way this works. This has been in the works for months and months.”
An ambitious project in its own right, Project Lightning has the potential of creating several headaches for Twitter. As Wired points out, the biggest issue involves editors unknown to Twitter users who dictate which tweets are noteworthy and which can be cast aside. Up until now, that power was left to users to exert on their own. Now that such power will lie with Twitter, however, it will be a platform that makes value judgments about what constitutes important information.
In addition, even when deciding what content will be displayed, there are multiple sides to consider. For example, when creating a feed for gun control, will the feed include tweets from those who are for and against it? Stanton told BuzzFeed that Twitter is currently developing an editorial policy in order to address these concerns.
“We’re making sure that there’s fairness and integrity, and that we have a set of guidelines we can review before saying yes to that particular tweet or video and including it in Project Lightning.”
We’ll see if that editorial policy can truly address these concerns when Project Lightning launches “later this year.”
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