Twitter launches new pilot project to curb fake news, asks users to flag misleading tweets

The move comes after the microblogging site last year began applying labels and adding context to tweets.

Twitter fact check trial programme: As a part of its efforts against misinformation, microblogging site Twitter has launched Birdwatch, a pilot programme that would allow users of the website to flag tweets which they believe are misleading and even allow them to write notes to provide context. The project has only been launched in the US during the pilot project, and at the moment, the notes marked on the tweet are only visible in a separate Birdwatch website. The move is aimed at restricting the spread of misinformation and nipping it in the bud before too many people come across it.

Twitter is of the opinion that the only way to tackle fake news at such a micro level is through a community-driven approach, which they believe can help in responding quickly before things get out of hand. Not only would it flag misinformation, it would also provide users with context which might help people trust the information they are receiving. Eventually, after the pilot test is successful, Twitter aims to make these notes visible directly next to the tweets themselves.

The move comes after the microblogging site last year began applying labels and adding context to tweets warning about the possibility of misinformation being spread, including those around the US elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pilot project: How it would work

During the testing phase, the participants in the pilot project would be able to flag tweets and add notes, and also rate the notes from other contributors on their helpfulness. Twitter is planning on running the pilot phase till the company is certain that the move helps in creating notes that produce helpful and appropriate context.

The notes that are added during the pilot project would only be visible on the Birdwatch site and to those participants only who are included in the pilot group.

In order to ensure that the project works well, the company would publish the algorithms powering the Birdwatch project publicly on the Birdwatch Guide so that experts would be able to analyse and in case of any issues, let the company know.

Concerns regarding the initiative

While Twitter’s attempt to overcome such a major issue by giving voice to the community is commendable and appreciable, there can be several downsides to it, like attempts to manipulate or vilify in order to propagate a one-sided narrative. Moreover, with such a divided community present on the platform, there could also be issues of people grouping together to dominate the narrative by labeling something as misinformation and giving half-sided news as context. This could lead to further polarisation.

However, these challenges have been acknowledged by the microblogging site, and Twitter said that they would focus on these things during the pilot run. Twitter said that even though it was aware that things in such a model could be messy at times, despite its attempts to rope in experts to minimise such instances, it believed that the model was worth trying.

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