Twitter introduces 'community-based' Birdwatch pilot to address misinformation

Elsewhere, Twitter has acquired newsletter startup Revue.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Twitter has launched Birdwatch, a pilot that will run in the US aimed to help address misinformation on its platform.

In a blog post, Twitter product vice president Keith Coleman explained that Birdwatch will take a "community-based approach" to identify information in tweets that is believed to be misleading and allow people to write notes to provide context. Pilot participants will also be able to rate the "helpfulness" of notes added by other contributors.

"We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable. 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," he said.

As part of the first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site, with Coleman assuring that notes will not affect the way people see tweets or its system recommendations. 

"These notes are being intentionally kept separate from Twitter for now, while we build Birdwatch and gain confidence that it produces context people find helpful and appropriate," he said.

Coleman added with Twitter planning to eventually build Birdwatch in the open, all data contributed to the pilot will be publicly available and downloadable in TSV files, as well as the code that will be used to underpin Birdwatch, such as its initial ranking system.

"We hope this will enable experts, researchers, and the public to analyse or audit Birdwatch, identifying opportunities or flaws that can help us more quickly build an effective community-driven solution," he said.

Read also: Twitter accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and others hijacked to promote crypto scam (TechRepublic)

To kick off the pilot, Twitter welcomes individuals based in the US to form part of the small test group, as long as they have an account that has a verified email and phone number, is with a trusted US-based phone carrier, has enabled two-factor authentication, and no recent notice of Twitter rules violations.

The company has also brought on a member of the University of Chicago's Centre for RISC onto the team to host feedback sessions.

"We know this might be messy and have problems at times, but we believe this is a model worth trying. We invite you to learn alongside as we continue to explore different ways of addressing a common problem," Coleman said.

Efforts to curb misinformation on its platform has been high on the agenda for Twitter in the past year. The company along with other social networks -- Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, and YouTube -- issued a joint statement in March 2020 promising that they would coordinate and work together with each other and government healthcare agencies globally to tackle COVID-19-related misinformation.

A few months later, Twitter also vowed to work alongside Australia to thwart any foreign interference on its platform.

"Removal of content alone will not address this challenge and while it does play an important role in addressing the challenge, governments must address the broader landscape," Twitter stated at the time.

"We do not elevate our own values by seeking to silence those who do not share them. In fact, we undermine these principles and erode their global accessibility."

More recently, the company permanently suspended former US President Donald Trump's account "due to the risk of further incitement of violence". Twitter's breaking points were two tweets made by Trump that were perceived to be escalating ongoing tensions from the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

In other Twitter news, the social media giant has acquired newsletter startup Revue in hopes it would allow writers to monetise their audience, by allowing people to sign up for paid newsletters produced by those writers and enabling writers to host conversations with their subscribers.

"Many established writers and publishers have built their brand on Twitter, amassing an audience that's hungry for the next article or perspective they tweet. Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers, while also helping readers better discover writers and their content," the company explained in a blog.

The founder of Revue Martijn de Kuijper said the acquisition will allow Revue, which will remain as a standalone business from Twitter, to "invest more, build faster" by making starting a newsletter free, and lowering the paid newsletter fee to 5%.

De Kuijper added there are plans build a version of Revue for larger creators and publications that will feature tools to help manage their audience, cross-promote newsletters, and include subscription offers.

"We've made these changes so that everyone can be a creator on Revue, with the opportunity to scale their newsletters and a paying audience without the added fees or obstacles that can limit growth," he said on the company website.

Revue's headcount will also be expanded with plans to hire across engineering, design, research, and data science. 

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