Twitter is making Birdwatch, its crowd-sourced fact checks, much more prominent

Twitter is his experimental fact-checking program Birdwatch and debunking his misinformation much more visible. With the expansion, about half of Twitter users in the United States will see Birdwatch’s debunkings added to deceptive tweets.

The initiative, which debuted more than a year ago, uses a crowd-sourced approach to debunk misinformation on Twitter. Community moderators who are part of the program can attach notes to misleading tweets to “provide informative context” instead of using a binary true/false rating like other fact-checking sites. Other contributors can then rate whether a clue is “helpful” or not.

Now Twitter is adding more people to the ranks of Birdwatch contributors – there are currently around 15,000 – and introducing a new system for rating contributors. Those who join the program must now earn the ability to add notes by first rating other contributors’ notes. Once their contributor score reaches 5, they can start writing their own notes. However, if those notes are repeatedly flagged as “unhelpful” by other contributors, they could lose their note-writing privileges.

Twitter rating system for Birdwatch contributors.


The rating system seems designed to ensure that contributors don’t defect from Birdwatch and start posting their own misinformation on Twitter. In particular, documents released by Twitter’s former security chief-turned-whistleblower showed that the company mistakenly allowed an “open QAnon account” in Birdwatch and only discovered it the night before the program launched.

Birdwatch’s latest addition also means fact checks will be far more prominent than in the past. When the program first started, they were only viewable on a separate website. That changed earlier this year when Twitter added fact checks directly to tweets, but it was still only visible to a small number of people. Now Birdwatch has expanded to millions more users. Twitter says about half of its US users will be able to see Birdwatch-based fact checks, though they warn users shouldn’t expect to see them on “every tweet.”

The company says early research suggests the fact checks are having a positive impact. According to Twitter, “People who see a birdwatch hint are, on average, 20-40% less likely to agree with the content of a potentially misleading tweet than someone who just sees the tweet.” Retweeting or liking a note is “15-35% lower,” the company says, adding that the percentage is an “estimate” based on “internal data.”

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