Twitter’s new Birdwatch feature relies on crowdsourcing to stop misinformation

Twitter is currently reviewing its photo preview algorithm for bias.
Image: Unsplash | Morning Brew

Every social media user has come across a post worthy of the report button. That’s especially true in recent years with the rise of widespread misinformation.

There is arguably no platform more toxic than Twitter.

That being said, the company is taking a new approach to battling misinformation and harmful content. It is currently working on a new feature called “Birdwatch” that will rely on crowdsourced reports to flag issues on the platform. This gives users another way to report harmful tweets while also making it easier for moderators to find that content and remove it.

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On the Lookout

Social media consultant Matt Navarra was one of the first to tweet screenshots of the new Birdwatch feature on iOS. His post shows an “Add to Birdwatch” option underneath the traditional report button. A second post shows a page that says “No notes on this Tweet,” suggesting that users will be able to add notes to the posts they flag when the feature officially goes live.

This isn’t the first time the existence of a tool like Birdwatch has been called into question. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong first found it back in August before it had a name.

Interestingly, it appears that Birdwatch still wasn’t supposed to be revealed just yet. The company has kept quiet about the specific workings of the feature and when it may be available. In a statement to TechCrunch, a Twitter spokesperson said, “We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter. Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it.”

Plenty of Unknown

Although it isn’t clear exactly how Birdwatch works, it appears that the feature will be a more public version of reporting. Users can flag tweets for moderation before adding public and private notes to explain why they chose to do so. It will be interesting to see how that plays out since public comments could easily get heated. Likewise, people could flag tweets without a legitimate reason.

Another thing to consider is whether or not all users will be able to use Birdwatch. It seems clear that the feature is ideal for crowdsourcing. However, it could be limited—especially at first—to a select group of users, such as fact-checkers, journalists, and industry experts.

With all this in mind, we’ll have to wait and see what the final version of Birdwatch looks like before making any judgments. It could end up as something that gets confused with the existing reporting feature or it could help the company address its misinformation problem once and for all.

In the meantime, users will have to continue to sift through the seemingly endless flow of misinformation on their own. It’s always good to keep in mind that news from Twitter should always be fact-checked with a reliable source.

Hopefully, there will be an update in the coming days. Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour says, “On Birdwatch, excited to share more about our plans here soon.”


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