KEY POINTS

  • Twitter has revealed plans for "Birdwatch," a crowdsourced content moderations system
  • Users will be able to flag posts as misinformation and discuss on a parallel forum
  • It's been in development since last year, and will now go into closed beta

Twitter has unveiled plans for a new content moderation system that relies on crowdsourcing facts, with users flagging misleading posts to automatically label them. “Birdwatch” has been in testing since 2020 and is ready to move into closed beta, NBC News reports. 

Like many social media platforms, Twitter has struggled with how best to combat misinformation in a media ecosystem that dwarfs the company that developed it. While initially reluctant to intervene at all, the proliferation of alt-right conspiracy theories forced Twitter to escalate manual moderation and flagging until Donald Trump and his supporters were banned en masse. 

With Birdwatch, Twitter hopes to turn its size to its advantage. Those involved with the program will be able to report comments as misinformation, eventually affixing a label if enough people flag a post for the same offense. 

Twitter's new Birdwatch initiative aims to enlist users in flagging false and misleading content in the latest move to curb misinfromation Twitter's new Birdwatch initiative aims to enlist users in flagging false and misleading content in the latest move to curb misinfromation Photo: AFP / Glenn CHAPMAN

A forum distinct from the main Twitter thread will exist where those involved in Birdwatch can discuss the information and arrive at decisions. Those wanting to know more about the main tweet could find its parallel thread to check out the discussion. 

"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 a press release.

There’s currently no timetable for a full release, but Twitter does eventually want to implement the system sitewide. Development will keep a particularly close eye on brigading, the name used on Reddit's similar system when a coordinated group subverts the automatic moderation.

“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. We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot,” Coleman said.