October 22, 2021

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Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Wikipedia-Style Approach To Fight Misinformation

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Topline

 In a significant attempt to overhaul how it moderates content, Twitter on Monday unveiled Birdwatch, a pilot program to crowdsource fact-checks to combat misinformation.

Key Facts

Birdwatch will allow regular users, called “Birdwatchers,” to identify tweets they think have misinformation and write notes with more information and context, which is similar to Wikipedia, where registered volunteers write, update and edit articles for accuracy.

Anyone can apply to be a Birdwatcher, and the only requirements are a valid phone number, email and no recent violations of Twitter’s rules.

Birdwatch notes will appear beneath a tweet, and in an effort to prevent people from gaming the system, Birdwatchers will be able to rate the effectiveness of each note, impacting the note’s ranking.

The program is currently a pilot, and is only available via a separate website, but eventually the company wants to expand Birdwatch to the rest of Twitter.

During the pilot, Twitter said it wants to focus on making Birdwatch “resistant to manipulation attempts and ensure “it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors.”

Crucial Quote

 “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,” Twitter Vice President Keith Coleman said in a blog post.

Key Background

 Twitter has long been under pressure to prevent misinformation from spreading on its platform. But it wasn’t until this year that the company took more aggressive action. Twitter fact-checked tweets from former president Donald Trump and other politicians about Covid-19, mail-in voting and the election results. Those labels linked to news organizations or other institutions offering credible information. The social network eventually banned Trump entirely, citing tweets that could incite more violence following the Capitol riot. The intention of Birdwatch, though, is to expand those efforts beyond “circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention,” Coleman said.

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