Twitter launches Birdwatch, a crowd-sourced free speech ‘alternative’ to combat ‘misinformation’

Social media giant Twitter announced on Monday it was rolling out “Birdwatch,” a “community-driven approach to addressing misleading information.”

The pilot program is essentially a crowd-sourced fact-checking project that will allow select members to add notes to tweets that they believe are false in an attempt to “add context” for other users.

“We know people come to Twitter to stay informed,” Vice President of Product Keith Coleman said in a blog post. “And they want credible information to help them do so.”

“We apply labels and add context to Tweets,” he added, “but we don’t want to limit efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention.”

In the first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site.

“On this site, pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other contributors,” Coleman said. “These notes are being intentionally kept separate from Twitter for now, while we build Birdwatch and gain confidence that it produces context people find helpful and appropriate.”

Here’s an early assessment from Fox News:

On Birdwatch, no account and no tweet is exempt from annotation, meaning users can “add context” to tweets posted by news outlets, reporters and elected officials.

Birdwatch will allow users to identify information in tweets that they believe are misleading or false, and write notes or notations to those tweets in a way they feel is providing “informative context.”

Participants will be able to annotate any tweet once. They will have the option to cite source material in their annotation, including from news outlets — meaning users can annotate one news outlet’s tweets by citing other news outlet’s tweets.

 

Given Twitter’s history of shutting down speech on the right, culminating with not only the censoring of a sitting Republican president, but permanently banning him, it’s understandable that skepticism was the order of the day.

Jonathan Turley, professor at the George Washington University Law School, replied to the announcement of the pilot program to say, “There is an alternative. It is called free speech.”

“My main concern is still Twitter’s expanding censorship of material deemed misleading,” he tweeted. “The use of community input will be part of this broader effort to identify material deemed misinformation and remove it.”

“Birdwatch will encourage groups to organize objections to tweets and build the case for removals, flags, or warnings by Twitter,” he said in a follow up. “Who is watching the birdwatchers? These people already have their own Twitter accounts to offer opposing viewpoints.”

One person we know who will not be a “Birdwatcher” is conservative pundit Dana Loesch.

In a tweet, Loesch said the effort “will mainly be progressives gaslighting center and right-of-center stories.”

Here’s a sampling of other responses to the story from skeptical social media users:

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Tom Tillison

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