Twitter is experimenting with a new feature that will allow users to make public annotations to Tweets they have flagged as misinformation, or argue for the authenticity of Tweets.
Called 'Birdwatch', the tool currently appears to have two primary functions: allowing users to report 'misleading' Tweets to Twitter's content moderators, and allowing users to provide public notes on why they believe a Tweet is or is not misleading.
App researcher Jane Manchun Wong first uncovered the feature in August. At the time, she Tweeted that moderators could flag tweets, vote on whether it was misleading, and add notes.
Twitter is working on a moderation tool to monitor misinformations on Twitter— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) August 5, 2020
Moderators can flag tweets, vote on whether it is misleading, and add a note about it
(I made up my own note to show what it currently looks like) pic.twitter.com/YIa6zt58Fj
Over the weekend, Wong and social media consultant Matt Navarra uncovered more details about the feature.
Twitter continues working on “Birdwatch”, the crowdsourced misinformation combatting tool which they’ve confirmed working on yesterday— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 3, 2020
Here’s the first look of Birdwatch’s “Twitter Community” form, where users states and elaborates whether a tweet is misleading pic.twitter.com/0zbQppm2kh
According to their screenshots, 'Birdwatch' appears as a binoculars icon on all Tweets. Once clicked, users can 'Add to Birdwatch', which will flag a Tweet for moderation. Once they do so, a form will be pulled up which asks the user to give evidence on whether they believe a Tweet is "misinformed, or potentially misleading" or "Not misleading". A questionnaire will ask several questions as to why they believe the Tweet to be misleading or not, and then a box will ask for evidence in 580 characters.
Users can click into a Tweet to see if any notes have been made. The notes act as a sort of public 'ledger' of a Tweet's authenticity. Although it is unclear if all users will be able to provide notes on a Tweet or only a select cohort—if the former it could quickly turn from a place of informed debate into a target for trolls.
Furthermore, a new tab called 'Birdwatch Notes' will be added to Twitter’s sidebar navigation, which will consolidate a user's contributions.
These features may change if/when the product is rolled out. Twitter confirmed to Campaign that 'Birdwatch' is "very much in development stage". It will not be launched in time for the November 3 US presidential election, Twiter added.
But a Twitter spokesperson confirmed the tool forms part of the platform's effort to tackle misinformation: "We're exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for Tweets on Twitter. Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it."
Twitter users cannot currently report a Tweet as false news. In the dropdown menu, users can report a Tweet as "suspicious or spam", displaying a sensitive photo or video, "abusive or harmful" or for "expressing intentions of self-harm or suicide".