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Elon Musk's AI-driven plan for news on X is like 'old Twitter on steroids,' expert says

Beatrice Nolan   

Elon Musk's AI-driven plan for news on X is like 'old Twitter on steroids,' expert says
  • Elon Musk recently suggested the future of news may be AI-powered.
  • The billionaire said AI could aggregate social media posts into a real-time news feed.

Elon Musk has a new vision for AI-powered journalism.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions event on Wednesday, he suggested the world was heading to a new model of newsgathering that would be "better than conventional journalism."

In short, Musk thinks social media posts can be aggregated into a real-time news feed using AI.

"What we're doing on the X platform is we are aggregating — we're using AI to sum up the aggregate input from millions of users," he said during an interview with Mark Read, the CEO of advertising group WPP.

"I think this is really going to be the new model of news, which is to gather information from people who are at the scene, who are experts in the field, and summarize the experts," Musk said, adding that this content should be aggregated into a "real-time news feed."

The suggestion aligns with Musk's continued championing of "citizen journalism," which relies on members of the public collecting, disseminating, and analyzing information.

However, using AI to curate a real-time news feed could come with some serious risks.

'Old Twitter on steroids'

Nic Newman, of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, told Business Insider the model was reminiscent of pre-Musk Twitter.

"It's just old Twitter on steroids," he said. "Some of the citizen journalism can be relied on and gives you things, but aggregating stuff when you're not sure how true it is not going to necessarily help human understanding or take us any further than old Twitter did."

According to Musk, X "very quickly" corrects itself when misinformation is spread on the platform.

However, Newman said his recent research had found the opposite was true.

The 2024 Digital News report from the Reuters Institute found X and TikTok to be the least trustworthy sources in terms of users' ability to differentiate fact from falsehoods. The report notes that both platforms have hosted misinformation or conspiracy theories around the Isreal-Hamas conflict and the Princess of Wales's health.

"The real issue that people have is they feel overwhelmed and confused by what's happening, and they don't have enough understanding. I can't see how this really helps that in any way," Newman said.

The idea that Twitter gets things wrong, but is never wrong for long, is something experts were talking about "over a decade ago," according to Newman.

"What we've discovered in that time period is that it can actually be very, very damaging because the falsehood goes around the world before the truth has time to catch up," he said.

Amplifying incorrect information can be dangerous unless platforms have a better way of correcting themselves and letting people know when they've viewed misleading content, Newman added.

Misleading 'experts'

According to Musk, AI and the internet are already "aggregating the wisdom of the people."

When looking to the future of newsgathering, the billionaire emphasized the importance of "experts in the field" and "first observers" over traditional reporters.

Musk has been somewhat hostile to news media since taking over X. He removed a policy that allowed journalists to get blue checkmarks and temporarily suspended several from the platform.

However, Musk's renewed focus on listening to "experts" contradicts some of these decisions. By removing the blue checkmark verification system, the billionaire has arguably made it more difficult to identify the very people he wants aggregated.

"When you're using AI to sort of sift through millions and millions of tweets or posts on X, it can be hard to tell if someone is just saying they're an expert or claiming to be an expert," social-media consultant Matt Navarra told BI.

Compensation questions

"X is probably one of the worst platforms in terms of being able to trust what you're reading," he added. "So if you're using a tool like AI to go through all of these tweets and posts, it gives rise to concern around if it will actually reflect and summarise factual, verifiable information."

Newman said the suggestion to aggregate experts on the platform also raised questions about compensation.

"If you're aggregating experts, people who really know what they're talking about, what is the payment model behind that? Many of those experts may protect their own IP and write Substack newsletters or do podcasts or do things that they can monetize," he said.

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, made outside normal working hours.

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