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Twitter Introduces Beta Program to Curtail the Spread of Fake News
January 28, 2021

Social media giant Twitter has launched a new pilot scheme in the United States to handle the spread of misinformation.

Under the new Birdwatch scheme, customers are invited to identify data in other people’s tweets they suppose is misleading and write notes that “provide informative context.”

Twitter said it believes that a community-driven strategy in which customers monitor each other and furnish a free fact-checking service will enable extra content to be flagged as misinformation.

“We apply labels and add context to Tweets, however we do not desire to restrict efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention,” said the company in a blog post yesterday.

For now, any notes that are made will not show up on Twitter but will only be seen on a separate Birdwatch site where pilot participants can rate the helpfulness of notes added by different contributors.

“Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and various set of contributors,”  said Twitter.

All data contributed to Birdwatch will be publicly accessible and downloadable in TSV files. When fully fledged, Birdwatch will be powered by algorithms based on the reputations of the contributors and “consensus systems.”

A computer will rank the notes made on tweets according to how useful they are.

Commenting on the pilot scheme’s introduction, Twitter user @morganiswizard wrote: “So let me get this straight, you’re attempting to stop random people from spreading misinformation with the aid of letting other random people decide what misinformation is? OK.”

Another Twitter user, Ben Collins, said that he was worried how the “Birdwatch” scheme would work in the open internet.

“The big thing I’m worried about with Birdwatch? Brigading,” said Collins. “Say one extremist forum really hates one true tweet by way of a particular user. They all sign up en masse and drown out good info. “As this rolls out to more people, I do not see a defence against that.”

He added: “Long term, Twitter desires to take the labelling of harmful lies out of the mouth of a faceless team at the company and provide it to the community.”

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