Twitter’s fact-checking service Birdwatch is headed for your feed

Twitter’s fact-checking service Birdwatch is headed for your feed

On the internet, you can find just about anything–and quite a bit of it is misinformation. Online-derived falsities can be silly or even dangerous. If it is shared on social media, it can grab the attention of many people.

Social media giants may have used different strategies, with varying success levels , One unique way Twitter uses its users to find out untrue facts is Birdwatch. As of today, Twitter users in the entire country . can now see the fact-checking comments that Birdwatch contributors make on questionable statements.

[Related: Whistleblower tells Congress that Twitter has a spy problem. ]

The service, which expanded last month with hopes of bringing on 1,000 more contributors a month, is more or less a peer-to-peer fact checking service. It’s a lot like sharing notes in a Google document with your peers. It’s possible that you have written something incorrectly. If you’re lucky, one or more of your peers might be able add context and corrections to an incorrect comment.

But with millions and billions of users, it’s not always the best idea to let anyone throw their thoughts in the ring. Birdwatch contributors go through a vetting process that helps determine how helpful their comments are. The “rating impact” score is supposed to ensure that fact-checkers are doing a good job, or else they could lose their Birdwatching skills.

This is a feature of the “bridging algorithm” Twitter integrated into the program that finds consensus among multiple groups for content that is highlighted, versus just running it like a popularity contest based on number of upvotes. “This is a new approach. We’re not aware of other areas where this has been done before,” Twitter Product VP Keith Coleman tells TechCrunch. In testing, apparently people are 20-40 percent less likely to agree with a “misleading” post after viewing Birdwatch notes compared to those who just saw the tweet.

[Related: Twitter’s fact-checking program might be headed to your feed. ]

But, all of this does come with concerns–research from nonprofit media institute Poynter found that the most “prolific” Birdwatcher user’s notes are more likely to mark tweets critical of conservative politicians as “misleading” while marking similar tweets critical of left-wing politicians as “not misleading.” Additionally, less than half of Birdwatch comments include a source, according to the Poynter research. As recently as last month, the community allowed a QAnon account into the project.

This all follows news that buyer Elon Musk is back in his attempts to purchase Twitter. The meaning of this for Birdwatch and Twitter in general is still unclear.

Sara Kiley Watson

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