Twitter has on Monday, January 25, announced a new community-driven, fact-checking platform named “Birdwatch”. The reason behind the concept is that Twitter users will be able to add contextual notes and comments to tweets considered misleading or containing false misinformation.
This new intervention is part of the company’s moves to shore up its ability to identify and take some action against misleading or false tweets in the aftermath of the Donald Trump presidency.
Twitter said it intends to expand its fact-checking capability beyond content that falls short of the established rules and is tapping from the rich resource of its users who may be able to provide a greater perspective to issues that will help to curb misleading tweets better than what obtains presently.
The Birdwatcher community is open to anyone who has not broken any of Twitter’s rules, has a verified phone number and his account is linked to an email. Two-factor authentication should also be enabled on the account. Obviously, the community would serve a greater purpose with their numbers and diversity, and Twitter is encouraging its users to join this community to help curb misinformation on the platform.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 25, 2021
The Birdwatch program is at the pilot stage presently, as Twitter pursues a full test run of the platform for its full deployment. It tweets with Birdwatch context live on a specific website, and users can only see the notes if they visit the site. There are plans to integrate the Birdwatch notes into Twitter more directly.
Public information on a possible community-based fact-checking initiative was first made around early 2020 and has taken up to a year to come to fruition.
The context notes from Birdwatch will look different from regular comments. There is a link on the Birdwatch portal that provides all the notes for any tweet, as well as the perception of the Birdwatcher (e.g. Misleading information, false information, etc), as well as the public identity of the Birdwatcher.
Although the concept could still be seen to be in development, it may also be subject to negative use, as Birdwatchers may specifically target a tweet to cast aspersions on it, when it may indeed not be false or misleading. Twitter may also be thinking in this direction, as they plan to provide some editorial and fact-checking algorithm to establish the reputation of potential Birdwatchers and their notes.