Twitter launches Birdwatch initiative to tackle fake news

SAN FRANCISCO • Twitter has announced a new initiative, Birdwatch, to enlist users to flag misinformation on its platform.

Birdwatch, to be run separately from Twitter, will allow users to identify tweets which may be false or misleading, the platform said on Monday of its new effort to stem false and harmful content.

Users in the United States who verify their e-mail addresses and phone numbers with Twitter, and have not violated the platform's rules in recent months, can apply to join Birdwatch.

The project comes as Twitter and other social networks are under fire for failing to stem manipulation and misinformation about elections, the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues. Twitter vice-president Keith Coleman said in a blog post that the move aims "to broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem".

"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."

While details of the new project are not clear, it appears to be based on a crowd-sourced approach similar to Wikipedia where information is checked and verified by a wide range of sources.

"We're looking for people to test this out in the US," the social media firm tweeted. "We'll use the notes and your feedback to help shape this programme and learn how to reach our goal of letting the Twitter community decide when and what context is added to a tweet."

Twitter will start Birdwatch as a small pilot programme with 1,000 users, and the fact-checking they produce will not be visible on Twitter but will appear on a separate site. If the experiment is successful, Twitter plans to expand the initiative to more than 100,000 people in the coming months and will also make their contributions visible to all users.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Twitter launches Birdwatch initiative to tackle fake news'. Subscribe