Twitter Launches 'Birdwatch,' a Community to Help Moderate Misinformation

Illustration for article titled Twitter Launches 'Birdwatch,' a Community to Help Moderate Misinformation
Image: Leon Neal / Staff (Getty Images)

Twitter announced on Monday that it had officially launched Birdwatch, a program designed to combat misinformation on the platform by deploying a small group of users to flag potentially misleading content.

The pilot, which is so far comprised of about 1,000 U.S.-based users, will utilize a Wikipedia-style format that will eventually allow its members to add community notes and annotations to tweets in order to provide meaningful context or assess the accuracy of the claims being advanced. For now, those notes are only available to be viewed via an ancillary website, but Twitter Twitter VP of product Keith Coleman wrote in a blog post on Monday that the eventual aim is to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Coleman added.

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The unveiling of the new community-driven approach comes in the wake of the fraught 2020 presidential election in the U.S., which saw unprecedented levels of political misinformation proliferate on Twitter — sometimes coaxed on by former President Donald Trump. Eventually, Twitter made the remarkable decision to permanently ban Trump from the platform, sparking a heated debate about the power of social media companies to censor prominent voices.

In implementing Birdwatch, Twitter employees were careful to survey 100 users across the political spectrum about the program’s efficacy, with the majority of them noting that the annotations provide helpful context in understanding the claims being put forth.

“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 wrote. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

Users interested in signing up to participate in Birdwatch can apply using this link.

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DISCUSSION

dickcreme
bottle_of_richard_cream

Are the people who will be materially improving Twitter’s product going to receive fair compensation (or any compensation) for their services? Or is the expectation that people do the work of improving a for-profit company’s product for free?

Relatedly, the problem, that this doesn’t address, is that Twitter doesn’t have a spine. Like Facebook, they are so scared of angering powerful conservatives that they will not consistently apply fairly straightforward sets of rules to conservatives.  I don’t see anything in this that will change that.