Birdwatch: Twitter’s new fact-checking programme

26 Jan 2021

Image: © Groenning/

The social media platform’s new feature will allow users to identify information in tweets that they believe to be misleading.

In an attempt to combat the spread of misinformation online, Twitter has launched Birdwatch, a new feature that allows users to flag tweets that they believe contain false information.

The pilot of the new feature will be in the US and will use a “community-based approach” to address misleading information on Twitter.

Major tech players including Twitter have been testing features to help stop the spread of misinformation in recent years.

Tumblr reported and deleted a number of accounts in 2018 which were allegedly used by a Russian internet group to spread misinformation. In 2019, Pinterest stopped showing search results related to vaccines in an effort to curb misinformation, long before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Since Covid-19 spread across the world in 2020, misinformation and disinformation have spiked across virtually all platforms, leading to several Big Tech companies joining forces to combat the spread of false Covid-19 information.

In the run-up to the 2020 US election, Twitter started attaching warning labels onto posts with disputed or misleading information.

It also added warning labels informing users that there was disputed information in a tweet if they tried to like or retweet it. The company said that the introduction of these warning prompts saw the number of quote tweets of misleading information fall by 29pc.

How Birdwatch will work

Birdwatch is Twitter’s latest attempt at curbing the spread of false and dangerously misleading information on its platform. The company said that it will allow users to identify information in tweets that they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context.

In the early phases of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site, where pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other users.

“These notes are being intentionally kept separate from Twitter for now, while we build Birdwatch and gain confidence that it produces context people find helpful and appropriate,” Twitter’s vice-president of product, Keith Coleman, said 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. Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic