Twitter’s mysterious moderation tool leaks again as ‘Birdwatch’ feature

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 4, 2020, 6:19am CDT
Twitter’s mysterious moderation tool leaks again as ‘Birdwatch’ feature

Twitter is developing a new feature currently called ‘Birdwatch’ that will enable users to add notes to tweets, providing potentially vital context to avoid misinformation. Based on existing examples of the feature as uncovered by data miners, Birdwatch appears to be a tool that enables users to add ‘notes’ to tweets, vote on whether a tweet is an example of misinformation, and allow future viewers to review the notes for context.

The Birdwatch feature is not yet available to users; rather, it first leaked as a ‘moderation tool’ from Jane Manchun Wong in early August, and has once again surfaced, this time through social media consultant Matt Navarra. In both cases, the leaks included images showing the current state of the tool, including a notes feature that lists the username of the person who created it, as well as the date of creation, time, and an ID code.

Social media platforms have been criticized as breeding grounds for all varieties of misinformation — some of it accidental, some of it intentional. The fake news and other false information can have major impacts on the populations exposed to it, an issue compounded by algorithms that may unwittingly reinforce certain ideologies or faux ‘facts’ to the people who engage with the topics.

All major social media platforms have taken their own steps toward addressing this issue, though critics have often pointed toward various issues that still exist among them. Twitter’s Birdwatch feature is apparently its own potential solution to misinformation, one that will allow notes to be added to tweets that add context to the information.

Birdwatch — assuming the feature is eventually launched and without radical changes in design — will be accessible by tapping a binoculars image under a tweet. Those who have access to Birdwatch will be able to use this to create new notes; others will be able to use this to review a history of notes made on the tweet. It’s unclear whether all Twitter users will be able to make Birdwatch notes or if the feature’s availability will be limited.

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