Birdwatch is Twitter’s new community-based fact checker

Twitter has tried a variety of fact-checking measures in the past few years, but these normally only apply to tweets from prominent accounts or popular topics. Now the company wants to add context and labels to more tweets by implementing a community-driven fact-checking system called Birdwatch.

To start, a group of contributors will be able to “respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable.” Currently, this context will be available on a dedicated Birdwatch page, but the eventual goal is to make these notes available right on Twitter once “there is a consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

The feature is limited to a separate site for now because the company wants to make sure it actually produces useful context; the last thing anybody wants is for a fact-checking tool to become another source of misinformation.

Twitter says it has conducted interviews with over 100 Twitter users “across the political spectrum” about the feature so far. The company said people valued that the notes were written in the voice of community members rather than in the voice of Twitter or some other authority. They also appreciated having more context than simple true or false labels.

The company says all the data on Birdwatch will be publicly available and downloadable, such that experts, researchers, and the public can audit Birdwatch. It’s also working on reputation and consensus systems to help highlight accurate information.

The current ranking system for tweet notes is somewhat akin to Quora or Stackexchange. Notes are initially shown in reverse chronological order, but notes that are rated highly by the community will be highlighted with a header that says “currently rated helpful.”