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Twitter launches 'Birdwatch' community forum to combat misinformation

On Birdwatch's Twitter page, you can sign up to help spot misleading tweets.

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Twitter's pilot program, Birdwatch, hopes to combat misleading information.

Angela Lang/CNET

Twitter on Monday announced a new community-driven forum called Birdwatch that's meant to combat misinformation and disinformation on the site. The pilot forum allows Twitter users to identify information in tweets they believe to be misleading and add notes that provide helpful context, the social media site explained in a blog post.

"We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable," Keith Coleman, Twitter's vice president of product, said in the blog post. 

Twitter, like other social networks such as Facebook, has been under more pressure to combat misinformation, including about the coronavirus and elections. Twitter labels or removes tweets with misinformation depending on their potential to cause harm, such as inciting violence. 

There are challenges that come with battling online lies. Twitter has tried to fend off baseless allegations that the company is politically biased against conservatives after it suspended accounts from high-profile politicians including former President Donald Trump. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn't partner with independent fact-checkers but curates public tweets debunking a misleading claim. It's unclear how effective these labels are when it comes to combating misinformation. Allowing users to fact-check tweets, though, could help the company police a higher amount of misinformation on its site.

"We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn't dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors," Coleman said in the blog post. 

In a hypothetical example of how Birdwatch would work, a tweet shows the image of a press release stating a mayor's office wanted to convert all water fountains from still to sparkling. Twitter users weigh in with their own thoughts, saying the tweet is "misinformed or potentially misleading" because it contains content from an April Fools' prank. 

Coleman said Twitter eventually wants to make notes visible directly on the tweets in question, but for now, they'll only be visible on a separate Birdwatch page. Birdwatch's Twitter page is active and it says that it plans to continue building in "public" for transparency. 

On Birdwatch's Twitter, you can sign up to test the program as well.