Twitter will allow users to flag and annotate misleading or inaccurate tweets in ongoing efforts to address misinformation on the platform
The pilot program, called Birdwatch, is being tested in the United States, the social media firm said in a blogpost. It comes as calls to better combat misinformation on social media have grown substantially in recent years, particularly surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
Twitter in the past year started adding labels and warnings about misinformation on the site, including about the Covid-19 pandemic and the US election. It permanently banned Donald Trump in the days leading up to the inauguration of his successor after the former president’s use of Twitter was seen to praise or enable the storming of the Capitol on 6 January.
Executives of the platform, along with those of other big tech firms, have been called to testify in front of Congress multiple times in the past year to answer for issues that include misinformation as well as the reach of big tech’s influence and power.
Following its launch, Birdwatch can be found on a separate section of Twitter – twitter.com/i/birdwatch, and pilot participants who apply to the program can write posts identifying and rebutting misinformation. Their notes will initially not be visible on Twitter for users outside the pilot group but will be visible on the Birdwatch site.
Twitter said it expects to have between 1,000 and 100,000 Birdwatchers who are being admitted on a rolling basis and who will not be paid. In the blogpost, the Twitter vice-president of product, Keith Coleman, said the notes will ultimately be visible to the global Twitter audience.
“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,” said Coleman in the blogpost.
Pilot participants can rate the helpfulness of notes from other contributors.
“We believe this is a model worth trying,” he said.
Some have criticized Twitter for delegating the important task of moderating questionable content to unpaid users. But others say it could be a step in the right direction. Evan Greer, the director of online activist group Fight for the Future said the effectiveness of the program will depend largely on how, exactly, it is carried out.
“There is definitely a need for creative thinking when it comes to addressing disinformation beyond just ‘let’s censor more things’. And it makes sense to explore more decentralized models rather than giving more power to big tech companies,” she said.
“That said, as always the devil is in the details. Twitter and other companies should consult with experts and members of impacted communities as they craft their policies and experiment with possible solutions to complex problems.”
Reuters contributed to this report.