In the fight against misinformation, Twitter has now launched the pilot phase of Birdwatch. Users of the microblogging service will be able to help with moderation and leave hints themselves in the future.
While Twitter has been known for some time to intervene, especially with politicians, and mark these tweets with its own warning labels. It now wants to go one step further with Birdwatch. On an initially separate page, Twitter users will be given the opportunity to leave comments on the tweets of other users. These comments can then in turn be re-evaluated to help other users.
One of the goals, according to Twitter, is to give users context to tweets. At the same time, it sees the potential to respond more quickly to misleading information as it spreads across the platform. Birdwatch is thus somewhat reminiscent of the discussion pages on Wikipedia.
Birdwatch: “We know this might be messy”
Twitter already said at the end of the announcement that they were aware that this project might be messy and cause problems. To keep these expected teething problems in check, Birdwatch will be run separately from the core product on its own site for now. However, this could change in the future.
Furthermore, Birdwatch is currently only available to users in the US. But even then, interested users have to meet a number of criteria. For example, a verified (US) phone number and email address, activated two-factor authentication and no current violations of Twitter’s rules are required. These hurdles are intended to prevent bots from abusing the system, for example.
Open algorithms and downloads
Birdwatch is also supposed to have “reputation and consensus systems” that are controlled by publicly available algorithms. This is intended to create transparency, showing why, for example, a comment was rated as helpful by Birdwatch and therefore highlighted. At the same time, the comments left are available for download for all interested users.
It remains to be seen how Twitter will implement this solution without it ending in chaos. For example, one can imagine a lengthy back and forth in the comments, which could cause problems with how they’re displayed. Some observers also fear that individual users who have left corrective comments could be targeted by a virtual mob.
When Twitter’s Birdwatch will be available for users outside the US is currently unknown.