Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Twitter's Birdwatch - Promoting and Controlling Its Narrative

Just in case you missed it, here is a recent announcement from Twitter, the self-appointed "Guardian of Truth" on the internet:


...and here:

Here is Twitter's reasoning behind the need for Birdwatch:


"People come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so. We apply labels and add context to Tweets, but we don't want to limit efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention. We also want to broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem, and we believe a community-driven approach can help. That’s why today we’re introducing Birdwatch, a pilot in the US of a new community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter."


A "community-based approach'?  What could go wrong, especially when Twitter controls the platform!

Here's more information on Birdwatch which is currently available in the United States (unless you happen to have a VPN with a server in the U.S.):


"Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading and write notes that provide informative context. 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.


In this first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site. On this site, pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other contributors. 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. Additionally, notes will not have an effect on the way people see Tweets or our system recommendations."


As Twitter notes, let's all build Birdwatch together:

"To date, we have conducted more than 100 qualitative interviews with individuals across the political spectrum who use Twitter, and we received broad general support for Birdwatch. In particular, people valued notes being in the community’s voice (rather than that of Twitter or a central authority) and appreciated that notes provided useful context to help them better understand and evaluate a Tweet (rather than focusing on labeling content as  “true” or “false”). Our goal is to build Birdwatch in the open, and have it shaped by the Twitter community.

To that end, we’re also taking significant steps to make Birdwatch transparent: 

All data contributed to Birdwatch will be publicly available and downloadable in TSV files 

As we develop algorithms that power Birdwatch — such as reputation and consensus systems — we aim to publish that code publicly in the Birdwatch Guide. The initial ranking system for Birdwatch is already available here. 

We hope this will enable experts, researchers, and the public to analyze or audit Birdwatch, identifying opportunities or flaws that can help us more quickly build an effective community-driven solution."


If you want to sign up for Birdwatch pilot program, here is what you'll need:

"To participate in the pilot, accounts must have:


Verified phone and email


This makes it more likely that participants are real people instead of bots or adversary actors.


A trusted U.S.-based phone carrier


Intended to reduce the use of artificially created or virtual phone numbers


Two-factor authentication enabled


Intended to reduce the chance of malicious attempts to hijack participant’s accounts.


No recent notice of Twitter Rules violations


Intended to reduce the likelihood of abusive contributions."


Here is how Twitter will manage the admissions process for Birdwatch:


"The pilot will start small and grow over time. Our goal is to admit applicants on a rolling, periodic basis. We will admit all participants who meet the required criteria, but if we have more applicants than pilot slots, we will randomly admit accounts, prioritizing accounts that are likely to participate due to having been recently active on Twitter, and those that tend to follow and engage with different tweets than existing participants do — so as to reduce the likelihood that participants would be predominantly from one ideology, background, or interest space."

  Here is a screen capture showing the "Join the Birdwatch pilot on the Twitter website:


My guess is that Twitter is just using Birdwatch as another means of promoting and controlling its own narrative and scrubbing its platform of any tweets that don't follow its limited worldview on key issues...but then I could be wrong....but I somehow doubt it.

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