Twitter Birdwatch is now live for a small group of “activists” to help ‘Fake News’. The micro-blogging network has launched the feature to combat misinformation and disinformation campaigns.
Twitter has officially launched the Birdwatch platform. It is essentially a parallel website for Twitter that will house all the notes and observations of users on Tweets suspected to willfully propagate inaccurate information.
How does Twitter Birdwatch work?
Twitter Birdwatch currently relies on users to identify and tag information that they believe could be misleading or false. Incidentally, Twitter has restricted the feature to the US, for now. However, it should expand to other regions gradually.
Twitter has launched the ‘Birdwatch’ feature as a pilot. It is available to just 1000 Twitter users in the United States. These users will have the power to add notes to Tweets, but the information will not be visible on Twitter.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 25, 2021
Users participating in the pilot can write notes on individual tweets. The notes and observations will be visible on the public Birdwatch website. Birdwatch participants can also rate notes submitted by other members of the program.
Attempting to explain the feature, Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman said, “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. 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 might publish Birdwatch data (their misinfo combatting tool) daily
so the “community” (public?) get to analyze the data, on whether people think a tweet is misinfo
The files are formatted as TSV, w/ the structure as follows (tried my best to represent it in TypeScript) pic.twitter.com/4AgwqV2V6m
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) January 21, 2021
The feature essentially allows the Twitter community to flag tweets on the Twitter Birdwatch site. They can then add context using notes, and rate the messages based on whether they find them helpful or not.
Twitter has been working on the Birdwatch platform for the better part of 2020. The company had hinted at its arrival late last year. However, the micro-blogging network chose to refrain from a public beta or trial before the US Presidential Election.
How will Twitter fight misinformation campaigns and digital propaganda machines?
Just like Facebook, WhatsApp, and every other actively used social media platform, Twitter has struggled with large scale misinformation campaigns. There have been several intentional Fake News generators which attempted to peddle propaganda.
Incidentally, Twitter attempted to tackle the chronic issue of Fake News head-on. It took steps to combat election misinformation during the last US presidential campaign.
I signed up for #Birdwatch. I hope @Twitter won't infer it's a positive change to the platform based on sign-up metrics. I signed up just to see how destructive it'll be. Also, Twitter users will not meet these expectations: pic.twitter.com/xT0pzxf8R3
— Jeff Tomblin (@JeffreyTomblin) January 25, 2021
Twitter began labeling tweets with wrong or misleading information about the election. However, social media users widely and intensely criticized the micro-blogging network’s initiative.
Apparently I cannot sign up to contribute to @birdwatch because of an account violation — the violation was @Twitter locking my account for sharing a story I wrote about big tech's reaction to the NYP/Hunter Biden story. pic.twitter.com/hSsVkEkGV1
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) January 25, 2021
Now, instead of going after misinformative Tweets themselves, Twitter has launched Birdwatch. It is a community-driven platform where all the information is generated by actual Twitter users.
Twitter is being very open about the new initiative. All the data that users generate on the Twitter Birdwatch platform will be available and downloadable in TSV files.
[Update]: It seems Twitter is allowing users to apply. Here’s the link.