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    What is Twitter’s new ‘Birdwatch’ programme?

    Posted on January 26, 2021

     

    For many years, Twitter and other social media sites have been faced with the conundrum of how to find the balance between allowing free speech and tackling hatred and misinformation. This came to a head in recent weeks with the US Capitol Building protests and the subsequent de-platforming of the now former US President Donald Trump, and this perhaps explains why Twitter has now chosen to unveil a new way to tackle misleading tweets.

    Yesterday saw the social media site announce ‘Birdwatch’, a tool that will allow users to flag and comment on tweets they believe to include misinformation. At present, Birdwatch exists on a separate platform not viewable in the UK, and while Twitter admits the idea “might be messy”, it hopes it will be successful enough to integrate it into the main platform as a community-driven attempt to keep users better informed on the reliability of its content.

    Can I be a Twitter ‘Birdwatcher’?

    Not yet. For a start, it’s exclusive to the US at the moment, but it also appears that the group of users carrying out the Birdwatching has been preselected.

    US-based Twitter users can register their interest here, while the rest of us are advised to follow @Birdwatch for updates on a possible global rollout.

    Emulating Wikipedia?

    Some sources, such as Euronews.com, have drawn comparisons between the idea and Wikipedia, which is without doubt the internet’s best example of a website using its community to verify content and deliver generally reliable material. However, Euronews notes a lack of diversity among ‘Wikipedians’, most of whom are white males. Twitter is conscious of this and says that if it is overwhelmed with applications, it will prioritise users who engage with a different type of content to the existing community.

    Recent months have seen Twitter add warnings of potential dubious or false information in tweets. Indeed, before his account was suspended, Trump seemed to have more tweets with these labels than without. With Twitter now looking for a dedicated community to tackle the spread of misinformation, it will be vital for all social media campaigns to deliver accurate and trustworthy content that avoids the discredit of a fact-checking label.

    For reliable, researched website content that ties in with your Twitter and Facebook campaigns, why not speak to us at Engage Web?

    John Murray
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