Twitter is giving users the power to evaluate misleading Tweets. This new initiative, called Birdwatch, enables users to leave contextual notes on potential misinformation.
Birdwatch Lets the Community Handle Misinformation
Twitter introduced Birdwatch in a post on the Twitter Blog, describing it as a “community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter.” Birdwatch lets everyday users leave notes on a Tweet, explaining why it’s misleading.
🐦 Today we’re introducing @Birdwatch, a community-driven approach to addressing misleading information. And we want your help. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/aYJILZ7iKB
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 25, 2021
Notes will appear underneath a Tweet, and you’ll have to select See all notes on this Tweet to view them. You’ll then get to see what labels Birdwatchers have attached to the Tweet, such as Misinformated, or potentially misleading, along with notes that fact-check the content.
Twitter hopes that this crowdsourced fact-checking feature will “broaden the range of voices” that tackle misinformation. The platform has faced criticism in the past for placing labels on misleading content, and Birdwatch may absolve the blame that’s constantly placed on Twitter.
More importantly, Birdwatch may help users understand Tweets on a deeper level, and don’t just present users with a label that dictates whether something is “true” or “false.”
Twitter notes that “there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system.” For one, Twitter is working towards making it “resistant to manipulation,” and is “ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors.” These are some kinks that Twitter will have to work out during the testing.
Birdwatch isn’t available to everyone just yet, as it’s currently being piloted by a select number of users. If you’re interested in joining the Birdwatch test, you can sign up through Twitter. Keep in mind that you’ll need to have a verified phone number and email address, a trusted US-based phone carrier, two-factor account authentication, as well as no recent Twitter violations.
But if you just want to watch from the sidelines, you can check out what the feature might entail on the Twitter page dedicated to the Birdwatch pilot.
Birdwatch: Good or Bad for Misinformation?
When released to the public, Birdwatch may quickly become a firestorm for arguments and debates. Twitter even warns that the feature “might be messy.” Other sites, like Reddit and Wikipedia, rely on users to moderate the content that gets posted on the site, but Twitter’s userbase might react differently.
The platform wrangled with misinformation during the 2020 US presidential election and placed labels on potentially misleading Tweets that questioned the results of the election. Twitter also took a major step in banning former President Donald Trump, which wasn’t met without controversy.