Ex-President Donald Trump’s last hurrah on social media, which eventually got him banned from most platforms after the attack on the Capitol building, is seemingly leading to notable changes to how social media companies moderate content on their platform.
The latest company to take matters seriously is now Twitter, which announced this week that it will be launching the pilot phase of a new solution to misinformation on its platform. Dubbed ‘Birdwatch.’ the program allows users who have registered with this new initiative (who will likely be called Birdwatchers) to comment on Tweets they deem as misinformation.
“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context,” Twitter Product VP Keith Coleman explained in a blog post. “We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable.”
Initially, these comments will appear separately on the Birdwatch webpage (which is only available in the US currently). Eventually, Twitter wants to migrate these user notes to their main platform, where users will be able to directly see any informative comments attached to misleading Tweets. Birdwatchers will be able to rate the helpfulness of another Birdwatcher’s informative comments in a manner similar to the upvoting system on popular forum site Reddit.
Twitter wants to work around being the moderator that governs information on its platform, which falls in line with CEO Jack Dorsey’s sentiment after banning ex-President Trump. Dorsey was feeling conflicted about having to use the company’s authority to censor individuals like the ex-President, even if he felt it was the right thing to do at the time.
By using Birdwatch, Twitter will be delegating some of the responsibility to its users, to allow its platform to be free from corporate or governmental moderation – to a certain degree, at least.
“To date, we have conducted more than 100 qualitative interviews with individuals across the political spectrum who use Twitter, and we received broad general support for Birdwatch,” Coleman said. “In particular, people valued notes being in the community’s voice (rather than that of Twitter or a central authority) and appreciated that notes provided useful context to help them better understand and evaluate a Tweet (rather than focusing on labeling content as ‘true’ or ‘false’).”
Twitter highlighted that users do not need to be qualified in any way or form to be accepted into the program, and that it will continuously work, especially in the pilot phase, to make the platform bias-free.
“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Coleman noted. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”
You can find more details on the program here.