Birdwatch: Twitter’s new fact-checking programme

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In an attempt to combat the spread of misinformation, Twitter has launched Birdwatch, a new feature that allows users to flag tweets which they believe contain false information.

The pilot of the new feature will be in the US and will use a “community-based approach” to address misleading information on Twitter.

Major tech players, including Twitter have been testing features to help stop the spread of misinformation for several years now.

Tumblr reported and deleted a number of accounts in 2018 which were allegedly used by a Russian internet group to spread misinformation.

In early 2019, Pinterest stopped showing search results related to vaccines in an effort to curb misinformation, long before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Since Covid-19 spread across the world in 2020, misinformation and disinformation has ramped up across virtually all platforms, leading to several Big Tech companies joining forces to combat the spread of false Covid-19 information.

Birdwatch is Twitter’s latest attempt at curbing the spread of false and dangerously misleading information.

Last year, in the run-up to the 2020 US election, the social media platform started attaching warning labels onto posts with disputed or misleading information. It also added warning labels informing users that there was disputed information in a tweet if they tried to like or retweet it.

The company said that the introduction of these warning prompts saw the number of quote tweets of misleading information fall by 29pc.

How Birdwatch will work

According to Twitter, the Birdwatch feature will allow users to identify information in tweets they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context.

In the early phases of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site, where pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other users.

🐦 Today we’re introducing @Birdwatch, a community-driven approach to addressing misleading information. And we want your help. (1/3)

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 25, 2021

“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 said in a blog post.

“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.”

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