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Birdwatch, where Twitter users can sing like a canary

Photo credit: A P O L L O/Unsplash

Douglas Bowman may have modeled the Twitter bird after a mountain bluebird, but Twitter is asking users to sing like canaries. In the social media site’s official blog, Twitter is introducing a “community-driven approach to help address misleading information.”

Instead of just reporting a tweet as suspicious, a scam, abusive, harmful, “not interested” or “expresses intentions of self-harm or suicide,” Birdwatch allows users to add more context to a misleading tweet. Twitter users can provide information for why this particular tweet is sketchy, in hopes of avoiding that it spreads too fast.

Considering there are more than 500 million tweets sent per day, which is 5,700 tweets a second, trying to get their moderators to see them all is taxing. A team effort, and being able to see misleading tweets in real time before they take off in the Trending Topics section, may be the best way to avoid traumatic situations like Pizzagate, the unfounded rumor that the Clintons were involved in a child-trafficking ring.

While the notes are anonymous for now, eventually Twitter plans to make them visible directly on the tweets for a global audience to see. Anonymous Birdwatch reports may find this discouraging, but considering the number of public Twitter arguments that happen anyway, there will always be a crowd that is loud and proud about disagreements.

In this first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site.

Here is an example of how the Birdwatch Notes would work:

But instead of using traditional moderator tactics of proclaiming a tweet true or false, more than 100 qualitative interviews with Twitter users across the political spectrum preferred the community approach. That way, they could better understand and self-evaluate whether they also felt the tweet was misleading.

Twitter challenge users to utilize their constructive-thinking skills is not new though. The social media platform already reminds users to read content before they retweet it via the “read before you tweet” reminders. Birdwatch will probably be comforting to those who already fact-check before they tweet.

Users who are interested in signing up for Birdwatch can do so here. Be warned that in order to participate, you can’t have a recent notice of Twitter Rules violations. A verified phone number and email address, in addition to a U.S. phone carrier, are mandatory as well.

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