Social media giant Twitter has launched a new pilot scheme in the United States to tackle the spread of misinformation.
Under the new Birdwatch scheme, users are invited to identify information in other people’s tweets they think is misleading and write notes that “provide informative context.”
Twitter said it believes that a community-driven approach in which users monitor each other and provide a free fact-checking service will allow more content to be flagged as misinformation.
“We apply labels and add context to Tweets, but we don’t want to limit efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention,” said the company in a blog post yesterday.
For now, any notes that are made will not show up on Twitter but will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site where pilot participants can rate the helpfulness of notes added by other contributors.
“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,” said Twitter.
All data contributed to Birdwatch will be publicly available and downloadable in TSV files. When fully fledged, Birdwatch will be powered by algorithms based on the reputations of the contributors and “consensus systems.”
A computer will rank the notes made on tweets according to how helpful they are.
Commenting on the pilot scheme’s introduction, Twitter user @morganiswizard wrote: “So let me get this straight, you’re trying to stop random people from spreading misinformation by letting other random people decide what misinformation is? ok.”
Another Twitter user, Ben Collins, said that he was worried how the Birdwatch scheme would work in the open internet.
“The big thing I’m worried about with Birdwatch? Brigading,” said Collins. “Say one extremist forum really hates one true tweet by a specific user. They all sign up en masse and drown out good info.
“As this rolls out to more people, I don’t see a defense against that.”
He added: “Long term, Twitter wants to take the labeling of harmful lies out of the mouth of a faceless team at the company and give it to the community.”