Tags: Media Bias | twitter | birdwatch | misinformation | fake news | community | section 230

Twitter's 'Birdwatch' a 'Community-Driven Approach' to Fight Misinformation

a man holds a smartphone with the twitter app logo on it
(Andrew Matthews/AP)

By    |   Monday, 25 January 2021 04:47 PM

Twitter launched a pilot program Monday that has users flag tweets they believe are misleading and write notes to provide context.

The project, called Birdwatch, is initially offered in the United States, the social media firm announced in a blog post.

Twitter and other social media companies have been under pressure to combat misinformation on their platforms. Twitter last year started adding labels and warnings about misinformation on the site, including about the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. election.

Birdwatch is on a separate section of Twitter, and only pilot participants, who apply to the program, will write posts identifying and rebutting misinformation. Their notes will initially not be visible on Twitter for users outside of the pilot group but will be visible on the Birdwatch site.

Twitter said it ultimately expects to have between 1,000 and 100,000 Birdwatchers who are being admitted on a rolling basis and who will not be paid.

"Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors," Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman wrote in the blog post.

Pilot participants can rate the helpfulness of notes from other contributors.

"We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn't dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors," Coleman said.

"We believe this is a model worth trying," he said.

No accounts are immune from being annotated through the system, Fox News reported, including major news organizations, reporters, and politicians.

In fact, one news organization can even annotate a tweet from another news organization.

"We know people come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so," Coleman said. "We apply labels and add context to Tweets, but we don't want to limit efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention."

Twitter wants to "broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem," he said, adding the company believes "a community-driven approach can help."

A look at the current sample page of Birdwatch shows a photo of a press release of a city claiming all its water fountains will be replaced with sparkling water. Two annotations that have been added clarify the press release was real, but that it was part of an April Fool's Day prank.

But Twitter admits all such annotations might not be so honest in real life.

"We want to invite anyone to sign up and participate in this program, and know that the broader and more diverse the group, the better Birdwatch will be at effectively addressing misinformation," Coleman said.

Users must be located inside the United States, have a verified email, a verified U.S. phone number, and no violations of Twitter policies within the last year, Fox News reported, and if a user has broken Twitter rules or had accounts suspended, would be disqualified for the pilot program.

"We're looking to reduce the likelihood of bad actors as we're getting started here," Jonah Grant, Twitter's staff software engineer, told Fox News.

Reuters and Newsmax staff contributed to this report.

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Twitter launched a pilot program Monday that has users flag tweets they believe are misleading and write notes to provide context.
twitter, birdwatch, misinformation, fake news, community, section 230
Monday, 25 January 2021 04:47 PM
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