Twitter ‘Birdwatch’ Trial To Allow Users To Flag Misleading Content

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‘Birdwatch’ pilot to give users the power to flag misleading tweets, and write background notes about reason for reporting

Twitter is opening a trial program for users that it admits could be at risk of manipulation, in an effort to tackle misinformation online.

The pilot program is called Birdwatch and is at the time of writing, only available to Twitter users who register for the scheme in the United States. Think of it almost as the Twitter equivalent of Wikipedia editors.

Birdwatch allows users to flag tweets that they believe are misleading, and also write notes to provide context about the offending item. It comes after Twitter this month permanently banned former US President Donald Trump for consistent violations of its community policies.

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Birdwatch trial

Twitter revealed the Birdwatch scheme in a series of tweets, as well as a blog post on the matter.

“People come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so,” it wrote on the blog. “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.”

“We also want to broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem, and we believe a community-driven approach can help,” it said. “That’s why today we’re introducing Birdwatch, a pilot in the US of a new community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter.”

It comes as social networking firms remain under constant pressure from governments and regulators around the world to do more to tackle the epidemic of misinformation found online.

Twitter last year began adding labels and warnings about misinformation on the site, including about the Coronavirus pandemic and the US election.

It also began for the first time, applying fact checking labels to tweets by former US President Trump, much to his outrage.

Pilot program

Twitter was keen to point out that this program is at the moment, only a trial, and it will develop the concept more fully when it feels it has the right structure in place.

“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context,” explained Twitter. “We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable. 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.”

“In this first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site,” it added. “On this site, pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other contributors. These notes are being intentionally kept separate from Twitter for now, while we build Birdwatch and gain confidence that it produces context people find helpful and appropriate.”

Twitter also acknowledged it will have to have systems in place to avoid user manipulation, for example by supporters of a one political party against another party.

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

Twitter confirmed it hopes eventually to have between 1,000 and 100,000 Birdwatchers who would be admitted on a rolling basis and who will not be paid.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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