Twitter's 'Birdwatch' is an experiment in fighting misinformation

The experimental moderation tool will rely on user input.

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Twitter has a new experimental tool called Birdwatch, and it’s part of the platform’s efforts to expand its arsenal of weapons against misinformation online. Social media consultant Matt Navarra has tweeted screenshots of the feature on mobile, showing what it looks like in its current state. Apparently, the tool will be added as an option in the drop-down menu where users can also find the Mute, Block and Report buttons.

When a user adds a post to Birdwatch, they’re essentially flagging it for moderation. They’ll also be able to add notes, which can be private or be made public, explaining why they flagged that particular tweet. If the feature gets implemented, Twitter will place a new icon that looks like a pair of binoculars (or glasses) at the bottom of a tweet that shows users’ Birdwatch notes about it. Also, the platform will add a new tab named “Birdwatch Notes” on its interface’s sidebar where users can keep track of their contributions. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong first discovered the presence of the tool in its early form back in August when it was much simpler and had no name yet.

Twitter didn’t discuss details about Birdwatch with TechCrunch, but it did confirm that it’s meant for use in the fight against misinformation. A spokesperson said:

“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.”

While Birdwatch seems to be designed as a moderation tool meant to rely on crowdsourcing, giving everyone the power to add public notes may be counterintuitive to what the company is trying to accomplish. We’ll likely have to wait for future versions or for a larger rollout to find out whether Twitter will allow all users to add notes that other people can read or whether only select users, such as verified experts or moderators, will be able to do that.