“Birdwatch” means something new in 2021. No binoculars needed. No birds either.
That’s right, the latest trend of birdwatching does not involve fresh air or feathered friends. Twitter has launched a new pilot called Birdwatch.
Birdwatch is Twitter’s effort to address misinformation spread on the platform. Twitter Vice President Keith Coleman said, “We also want to broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem, and we believe a community-driven approach can help.” In other words, it’s a mash-up of Twitter and crowdsourcing features la Reddit and Wikipedia.
Basically, Twitter users can sign-up to become a “Birdwatcher”. If accepted, Birdwatchers will be able to leave notes indicating information they believe is misleading and provide additional sources. Additionally, others will be able to rate the helpfulness of a note left by a Birdwatcher.
Bird’s Eye View
Assuming you are a business owner or leader who does not have time to get into the weeds of Birdwatch, keep reading below for a bird’s eye view of the pilot. If you want more details, check out the official Birdwatch Guide.
Currently, Birdwatch is a separate site, only available in the United States. Existing US-based Twitter users with a valid phone number, email, two-factor authentication enabled, and no recent rule violation on the platform can sign-up to become an unpaid “Birdwatcher”.
Twitter does ask Birdwatchers to uphold three core values:
1. Contribute to build understanding.
2. Act in good faith.
3. Be helpful, even to those who disagree.
Twitter admits the pilot will start small. The plan is to grow over time and randomly admit new accounts based on recent activity and other factors. Word on the street is that Twitter expects to have between 1,000 to 100,000 unpaid Birdwatchers participating.
The nuts and bolts of the Birdwatch program is writing and rating notes. As part of their duties, Birdwatchers will answer required multiple-choice questions (similar to what some other platforms currently ask) regarding why they believe a Tweet is misleading, and then there is text space for the Birdwatcher to provide their feedback and sources. Just like Twitter, there is a 280 character limit for notes, but the URL counts as only 1 character toward the limit. Once the note is submitted, it will be available for other Birdwatchers to read and rate.
For the pilot, the notes are only visible on the separate Birdwatch site. However, there are plans to eventually integrate the notes into the main platform provided the pilot is a success.
Not only will all contributions be public (even if the Birdwatcher’s Twitter account is private), data nerds and researchers will be interested to know that all the data contributed to Birdwatch will be downloadable. Adding to Twitter’s effort to bolster transparency, they are also planning to publish the code behind Birdwatch on the site. For example, the initial note ranking code is found here.
This is not Twitter’s first rodeo. They are savvy enough to know that this effort has challenges. Twitter has proactively addressed a few of the challenges, such as coordinated manipulation and avoiding bias. Time will tell.
Watching Out for You
Did you just throw imaginary hands up in the air and silently exclaim in your head, “this is for the birds!”?
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