Twitter to root out misinformation with ‘Birdwatch’

Twitter users will soon be able to warn one another about misinformation propagating on the platform through a new feature called ‘Birdwatch’.

In the grips of a global pandemic, the last thing people need is a bunch of loosely based conspiracy theories spreading online. That’s how anti-lockdown rallies ignite and spikes in infection occur… true story. Add to this nigh-on undetectable deep-fakes circulating online in the build up to the US Presidential election and murmurings of pro-Communist alliances with figureheads of the BLM movement, and what you have is a pretty serious issue regarding misinformation.

Social media has become the main breeding ground for misleading content in 2020, with Facebook forced to place limitations on WhatsApp messaging after rumours of 5G being linked to Covid-19 triggered vandalism of telecom towers across the UK. Now, we’re seeing Twitter’s attempt at confronting the problem months later.

The experimental new feature is dubbed ‘Birdwatch’ and is described as a more thorough means of flagging tweets for moderation. Appearing next to the Mute, Block, and Report options, users will soon be able to select ‘Add to Birdwatch’ which will pull up a host of options to alert site admins and the rest of the Twittersphere to bogus and inflammatory content.

From here, people can attach their own notes to the tweet that will appear in a separate community bar. If Birdwatch is implemented, any tweet that has been flagged by mods will display a small binoculars logo in the corner that will open all public notes when selected. The thinking is that, by providing a running commentary of users – presumably armed with links to credible sources and stats – we can bring round individuals who otherwise might have circulated the falsehoods themselves. Essentially, notes will become a public document of sorts for a tweet’s authenticity.

It’s believed those who open Birdwatch will be faced with a brief questionnaire posing questions as to why users believe a tweet to be misleading or not, complete with a box to provide further information in 580 characters or less. However, Twitter has yet to confirm whether or not these notes will be available to anyone with a profile, or just an exclusive few with specific credentials.

What we know for a fact is that Twitter has been ‘exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets,’ and given that app researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered an early iteration of this plug-in way back in August, it’s safe to presume that Birdwatch is that solution.

Whether or not it’ll work is another matter entirely. Relying on crowdsourcing as a moderation tool may be counterintuitive to what Twitter is trying to accomplish and Birdwatch could easily become another place for warring factions to debate the difference between lies and respective facts if not controlled properly.

The fact that Twitter is trying to tackle the issue is positive though. Misinformation is no longer dwelling in lowly threads on 4chan and Reddit and is at the forefront of the biggest social media platforms. Therefore, it’s the duty of company figureheads to protect users and to keep an air of credibility in the years ahead.

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