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Twitter launches community-driven Birdwatch program to curb misinformation

By Nadeem Sarwar January 25, 2021, 6:22 pm

When it comes to fighting fake news and misinformation, Twitter has often been criticized for failing to combat the menace. And even though the company has relied on measures such as labeling tweets to getting them erased and even blocking accounts that peddle harmful content, there is still a long way to go. In a bid to source some help from its community, Twitter has today launched a new program called Birdwatch that will let people identify misleading content and then write notes with contextual information so that other users can avoid getting influenced by wrong information. 

“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context. We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” the company wrote in a blog post. It is worth noting here that all data contributed by the community on Birdwatch will be publicly accessible and downloadable as well.


In the starting phase, notes contributed by the community will only be visible on the dedicated Birdwatch website. Twitter says it is doing so to make sure that these are helpful for others. Plus, these inputs regarding a tweet won’t affect that tweet’s visibility to regular users. However, at a point in the foreseeable future when the contributors are diverse enough and a wide consensus can be reached regarding a particular piece of misinformation, these community-contributed notes will eventually be shown directly alongside a contentious tweet. 

At the moment, Twitter is piloting Birdwatch among a small set of handpicked users, and is also building what it calls reputation and consensus systems. However, the company also acknowledges that a community-driven approach for Birdwatch is prone to failures as well, especially when it comes to representation of a particular ideology, political leaning, background, or any other bias. Additionally, all the notes contributed by the community will be ranked based on the ratings they’ve received from others and a few other key criteria.

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“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. We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot,” the company notes. At the moment, Birdwatch is only available for participants in the US, but there is no word if the company has plans to roll it out on a global scale. 


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