Twitter test makes news the first thing users see in the timeline

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Twitter users could soon see the biggest news events first when opening the timeline — the social media platform recently confirmed a test of a news highlight reel at the top of user feeds. The tested feature would push news as platforms like Facebook put a smaller priority on news items in an ongoing fight against fake news.

According to BuzzFeed, the staff at Twitter select news items to appear in boxes at the top of the timeline. Tapping on those news items will take users to a list of related tweets, also human curated. The test was first spotted on Wednesday, March 14 with a news spot featuring Stephen Hawking’s death along with other news items, including an election in Pennsylvania.

Twitter says the test is designed to highlight the platform’s bent towards current happenings while making news easier to find. The news highlight test is an expansion of the Happening Now option that already exists inside the Twitterverse. The tool is currently focused on sports-related tweets, but the test appears to be an example of Twitter making good on its promises, since the network said at the October launch of the feature that the tool would eventually expand to news and entertainment.

For now, the feature is only in testing, allowing only some iOS and Android users to spot the news highlights. Twitter said that, if the feature is successful, the feature may be run by algorithms, rather than human oversight, in the future. Another potential outcome of a successful test could organize the related tweets into multiple categories for users to navigate, including an option for chronological order.

The test comes one month after Twitter began featuring breaking news video in the sidebar of the Twitter feed. That feature is designed to highlight news that’s breaking and comes from trusted local news outlets. The feature first began rolling out with coverage from a Miami newsgroup in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting last month.

Twitter’s instant microblogging nature is known for creating discussion around current events and news items. As Twitter overhauls the reviews against abuse and works to boot bots off the platform, the test could help highlight one of the platform’s strengths.

The move is part of an ongoing discussion on the impact of fake news — Facebook recently announced that news posts would show up around 20 percent less in users timelines as the company cleans up the feed to make scrolling through it “time well spent.”

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