Elon Musk took to Twitter’s content-moderation tool this weekend and applauded its Birdwatch (now renamed Community Notes) program, which added context notes to tweets by Joe Biden and the White House. Birdwatch first debuted in January 2021 before expanding considerably last month.
Musk tweeted that this has the “incredible potential to improve information accuracy on Twitter”.
Birdwatch is a community-based Twitter feature that allows users to add notes to tweets they find misleading.
Twitter’s crowdsourced fact-checking tool, now being rebranded as Community Notes following Elon Musk’s purchase, is making strides against misinformation but may be overwhelmed by the massive surge of falsehoods spreading on its platform ahead of the midterm elections.
This pilot program, launched in January 2021 and made public in early October, allows contributors to add notes to tweets they find misleading, with those from diverse viewpoints rating any given note as helpful resulting in its public display on said tweet. Twitter has also utilized this tool extensively fact-check some tweets from prominent figures like President Donald Trump and Joe Biden using this system.
However, the new CEO of the company has strongly condemned its use for political purposes and promised to review content moderation policies. Furthermore, he pledged to make it profitable – although some experts speculate it is unlikely they can do so without losing some of its millions of users.
Even as Google has made some strides toward combatting misinformation, its advertising revenue continues to decline rapidly – by 30% since January. Ad prices have also fallen considerably since that point; leading to significant losses as well as having to lay off thousands of employees as part of cost-cutting measures.
Twitter has responded to its declining ad revenue with changes to their service, including removing “Tweet to me”. This move attempts to limit spam being sent directly to individual accounts while making it more difficult for bots to follow accounts.
It’s a mechanism to control partisan brigading.
Since Twitter’s recent struggles with misinformation, the company has taken steps to prevent its users from spreading misleading information. This includes labeling tweets from President Donald Trump and other politicians with “fact-check” or “information” tags to link them back to news organizations that provide more credible facts. Twitter also flagged some tweets as potentially misleading while adding notes providing context.
As part of an effort to combat misinformation, Twitter has introduced the Birdwatch tool as part of their larger effort. This invites select Twitter users to identify tweets they believe to be misleading and provide contextual notes. Once submitted, these notes will then appear directly below each tweet in real-time. Community Notes was first piloted back in January 2021 before officially starting to roll out last month.
Even with Musk’s endorsement of this tool, questions remain as to its efficacy. Some observers have pointed out that its fact-check feature hasn’t been deployed widely enough while others question whether community members provide quality data.
One must keep in mind that Birdwatch contributors aren’t professional fact-checkers or journalists. Furthermore, even the most informed contributors could potentially have their own agenda and biases that influence what they write about.
Birdwatch relies on voluntary participation. Twitter imposes stringent guidelines in order to participate, including verified phone numbers and emails, two-factor authentication enabled and no recent notice of violations; due to these criteria it may be impossible to filter out individuals with bias or completely eliminate partisan herding from participating.
But an in-depth examination of the effectiveness of Birdwatch may shed more light on these matters. Future research should investigate the relationship between partisanship and selecting to fact-check or not on Birdwatch; similarly, patterns found here could potentially exist more widely on Twitter replies as a whole – this will shed more light on understanding bias’ role in fighting misinformation on Twitter, and how best to combat it going forward.
It’s a tool to combat misinformation.
Twitter must adopt an aggressive strategy if it wishes to create a safer platform for information. Crowdsourced moderation puts the burden of dealing with unpleasant material on unpaid users – who often become targets themselves of misinformation they seek to correct. Crowdsourced moderator efforts also raise labor concerns and can bias toward prioritizing sensationalist issues over more mundane ones.
Twitter claims they are taking steps to address these problems with their pilot program Birdwatch, launched in early 2021. Birdwatch provides users with a fact-checking tool which enables them to add notes about tweets they find misleading or offensive – it has since been made available to select U.S. users as an effective way for reporting false or incendiary statements on Twitter.
Birdwatch, despite its numerous flaws, has proven effective at mitigating misinformation spread on Twitter, and Twitter plans to scale it once they become more confident with how to run it. As part of its pilot phase, Twitter hosted feedback sessions with experts across various disciplines and will take their advice into consideration when expanding this feature for wider use.
Crowdsourced moderation projects face one major risk when trying to crowdsource moderation: bad actors could potentially try to manipulate contributors or vote. This has been seen with other crowdsourced projects like Wikipedia; many individuals and entities have attempted to influence its content through coordinated manipulation or political bias.
Twitter recognizes this risk and has taken measures to ensure contributions to Birdwatch are as impartial as possible, including making its code open-source and requiring that contributors’ identities be hidden. They have also collaborated with academics in measuring its effectiveness and devising improvements; over time they hope to make notes visible via Twitter’s website but this could take some time as Twitter still needs to figure out how best to scale and operate this program without bias or pile-ons affecting it.
It’s a tool to combat fake news.
Twitter has come under increased pressure to combat misinformation on its platform, so earlier this year they developed the Birdwatch tool which allows users to add fact checks to tweets that break company rules or receive widespread public attention. Now Twitter says it will extend this tool further and will give users the option of rating its usefulness as information becomes available.
According to a blog post published by Twitter, Birdwatch notes are now accessible to a small group of US users. When clicking the small bird icon associated with certain tweets, users will be given an opportunity to submit notes that could potentially be misleading or inaccurate; once submitted, these submissions will be reviewed and considered for publishing by Twitter.
Twitter representatives say the aim of Birdwatch is to add context to tweets and eliminate bias, pile-ons and abuse by including ratings from different perspectives. Twitter also asserts it will use information gathered from its community members to strengthen its algorithm; critics note this is insufficient in combatting misinformation as opposed to simply removing content or flagging it for review; Evan Greer, deputy director of nonprofit Fight for the Future believes this approach needs more creative solutions: “It’s good to see companies getting beyond simply asking, ‘Should this content be up or down?’ or ‘Let’s remove it more quickly’,” according to Evan Greer.
Twitter has long relied on user participation to moderate real-time streams and live video service Periscope content; but its new crowdsourcing feature appears more focused on fighting fake news or misleading material than previous efforts. Furthermore, the tool will bolster efforts by its own team of journalists and editors.