September 26, 2022

Robotic Notes

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To fight misinformation, Twitter expands crowdsourced fact-checking tool Birdwatch

3 min read



Twitter Inc. said today that some of its users will start seeing notes under their posts telling them that they’ve been flagged by members of the public for sharing dubious information.

The program started last year as part of a program called “Birdwatch,” although during the trial stage it was made available only to 10,000 users in the US Rather than ask a third-party fact-checking company to review posts, Birdwatch asks other users to check out information for its reliability and, if deemed necessary, flag the post and explain why in the notes.

At the time, Twitter said it was important to get regular people to fact-check posts, adding that in the pilot program people had been chosen from various parts of the political spectrum. Until now the details of what happened in the program have only been available on a dedicated Birdwatch website.

Now it’s coming to the wider public, but still only to a selected group of people. When a person’s post is flagged by the fact-checkers, there will now be a rating system in which they can approve or disprove the added context in the notes.

“To appear on a Tweet, notes first need to be rated helpful by enough Birdwatch contributors from different perspectives,” Twitter explained. “Difference in perspectives is determined by how people have rated notes in the past, not based on demographics.”

Twitter said the reason for the expansion was what it called “promising” results, stating that 20% to 40% of people were less likely to agree with the substance of a potentially misleading Tweet after reading a note about it, compared to those who saw a Tweet without a note. ”

Nonetheless, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which reviewed more than 2,000 notes, said that fewer than half of the people cited sources when fact-checking and many of the notes contained “partisan rhetoric.”

An example of a note was some added context to US Vice President Kamala Harris’ simple explanation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She was mocked by many people on social media for her simplicity, leaving out years of political history when she said, “Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine so basically that’s wrong.”

But the note contained the reason why she said that. She had appeared on a podcast called the Morning Hustle, and had been asked to explain the conflict in “layman’s terms.” Twitter users said they found this note helpful.

Another note appeared below a viral video that seems to show an ice cream seller saving a child from abduction. It looks completely fake, and according to the fact-checkers, it is. The note said, “This video is most likely scripted or setup. A similar video exists with same people. ” Even so, the video is still being shared all over the world and people seem to have fallen for it.

Photo: Alexander Shatov / Unsplash

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