Twitter Again Expands Fact-Checking Birdwatch Scheme


Content moderation development. Another expansion of Twitter’s community fact-checking project, known as Birdwatch

Twitter’s content moderation decisions continue to draw scrutiny, as the platform again expands its community fact-checking experiment scheme, known as Birdwatch.

It was back in January 2021 when Twitter began the Birdwatch pilot, which at the time was only available to 10,000 Twitter users who registered for the scheme in the United States. It is essentially the Twitter equivalent of Wikipedia editors.

Birdwatch allows users to flag tweets that they believe are incorrect or misleading, and also write notes to provide context about the offending item.

Twitter Birdwatch

Birdwatch expansion

Then in March this year, Twitter said it was expanding its Birdwatch pilot, and was “expanding its visibility, so it can make further improvements, based on feedback.”

From March a small (and randomised) group of people on Twitter in the US began to see Birdwatch notes directly on some Tweets.

Until now, Birdwatch has been a limited experiment with 15,000 contributors writing fact-checking notes, Reuters reported.

Twitter said it will now add about 1,000 new contributors per week.

Birdwatch notes are held on a separate website, but half of users in the United States will begin seeing notes in their Twitter timelines, the company said.

Tweets with Birdwatch notes are left up on the service and its algorithmic distribution to other users is not affected.

“We just think that’s a really powerful place to start, because it’s just arming people with information and letting them make up their own minds,” Keith Coleman, VP of product was quoted by Reuters as saying during a briefing with reporters.

While Twitter has policies that prohibit content such as hate speech or calls for violence, Birdwatch allows the Twitter community to address tweets in “gray areas,” he reportedly said.

The project has produced encouraging results, Twitter reportedly said. People are 15 to 35 percent less likely to “like” or retweet content that has a Birdwatch note attached to it.

They are also 20 to 40 percent less likely to agree with a potentially misleading tweet after reading a Birdwatch note about it.

Misleading content

Indeed, it should be remembered that Birdwatch is separate from Twitter’s other pilot reporting systems that allows users to flag or report misleading tweets on the platform.

It was back in August 2021 when Twitter rolled out a limited test of a new reporting system for some people in the US, South Korea, and Australia.

Selected users in those countries were presented with the option to flag a Tweet as “It’s misleading” after clicking on ‘Report Tweet’.

The platform said earlier this year that since last August, it had received around 3 million reports from users who have used it to flag tweets which they believe are in violation of its policies.

But in January Twitter revealed that this pilot reporting option has been expanded to a number of other countries, including Brazil, Spain, or the Philippines.

The expansion of Birdwatch comes at a sensitive time for Twitter, bearing in mind its upcoming courtroom battle with former suitor Elon Musk.

Musk is a free speech champion and has previously said the platform should remove fewer posts and act as a public town hall for free speech.

He said he would reverse “the stupid” ban on Donald Trump for example.

Social media platforms have also been criticised of doing too little to remove harmful posts.