Twitter Intensifies Fight Against Misinformation with Birdwatch Fact-checking Program


Twitter has continued to intensify its fight against misinformation with the launch of a new fact-checking program called Birdwatch.

According to the social media company, the program will address misinformation on its platform by allowing users to fact-check tweets.

Speaking on the new approach, Twitter VP of product, Keith Coleman in a blog post explained that the new program has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads by adding context that people trust and find valuable.

Over 1,000 pilot users

Birdwatch will start as a pilot program which will include about 1,000 users in the US. Applications are now open for interested users.

Currently, users participating in the pilot will be able to write notes on individual tweets, but the notes will only be available on the public Birdwatch website and not on Twitter itself.

However, Coleman has confirmed that Birdwatch notes will eventually become visible on tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.

Twitter Intensifies Fight Against Misinformation with Birdwatch, a fact-checking program
An example of what a tweet with the Birdwatch notes Credit: Twitter

How Birdwatch Works

A user can make a contribution to Birdwatch in less than three minutes. You can easily make notes on tweets by going through the following steps.

First, you have to select the three horizontal dots at the top right-hand corner of a tweet and click on the ‘Contribute to Birdwatch‘(with the conversation icon) at the bottom.

A list of possible reasons why the tweet is misleading or harmful is displayed for you to choose from. The list contains options like Factual error, digitally altered photos or videos and misinterpretation.

After that, you will be required to decide the degree of harm the misinformation can cause, from ‘little’ to ‘considerable’. Then you will be taken to a page where you will be able to explain the reasons for your decisions and other reasons why the tweet is misleading or harmful.

However, Twitter advocates that the explanations be precise (280 characters) and contain links to outside sources.

Once your input has been recorded, other users will be able to vote on whether your note was helpful and also if they agree with your conclusion.

All data contributed to Birdwatch will be available and downloadable in TSV files. Twitter also says it will publish the algorithms that power the program publicly in a Birdwatch Guide.

Birdwatch is currently not in Nigeria. However, as it launches gradually across markets you can join using the link here.

Twitter Intensifies Fight Against Misinformation with Birdwatch, a fact-checking program
Birdwatch is currently unavailable in Nigeria

Twitter’s fight against Misinformation

Like most social media companies, Twitter has long grappled with the spread of misinformation and propaganda across its platform. Over the course of the past year, the company has launched several programs and features to tackle this issue.

Leading up to the US elections last year, it started labelling tweets with wrong or misleading information. An example was the flagging of a pair of former US President, Donald Trump tweets with a fact-checking label during the George Floyd protest.

Recently, Twitter suspended Trump for posting tweets that fuel the deadly Capitol riot. Now the company is releasing yet another measure to check misinformation on its platform.

Although the pilot testing is just kicking off, Twitter first confirmed it was working on Birdwatch last year. Off all the measures that Twitter has employed against misinformation, this one shows the potential to be the most effective.

While flagging of tweets with fact-checking labels was somewhat effective, it was only concentrated on popular and important topics like COVID-19, elections, etc.

Birdwatch has the power to bring fact-checking to every corner of the Twitter community using its community-driven approach to addressing misleading information.

This means that Nigerians can proactively make notes on harmful or misleading tweets without waiting for Twitter to flag it. From simple misinformation about an occurrence on your street to national issues like verifying the publication date of a video which alleged that the Nigerian government paid compensation to herdsmen.

In summary

Birdwatch is another bold attempt by Twitter to solve one of the major challenges of building a community-driven system – Misinformation.

The company says more than 100 people across the political spectrum have applauded Birdwatch notes saying that it provided useful context to better understand the tweets.

With the pilot already launched, we can judge the effectiveness of Twitter new watchdog feature in the coming weeks.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!

Register for Technext Coinference 2023, the Largest blockchain and DeFi Gathering in Africa.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!