Twitter Truth Seekers to Label 'Misleading' Posts

John Lister's picture

Twitter is asking volunteers to add notes explaining why posts are misleading. It calls it a "community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter."

The company appears to believe that using volunteers will make it easier to address quickly-spreading misinformation rather than rely on paid staff.

It says the project, dubbed Birdwatch, won't involve labeling posts as "true" or "false". It also won't involving hiding or removing any posts as already happens after staff review reports of users breaching the site's guidelines.

Volunteers Will Reach Consensus

Birdwatch will initially exist as a separate site for testing purposes. Volunteers in the pilot program will be able to add notes to Twitter posts to give context and explain how they may be misleading. There will also be a system for other participants to rate how helpful the notes are. (Source:

According to Twitter, the aim of the pilot is to develop algorithms that can quickly identify which notes are most useful and should be published besides the relevant posts. This will only happen when "there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors." (Source:

One risk could be that the type of people who agree to spend their free time writing such notes might not be representative of a wide range of viewpoints and political leanings. To counter this, data files containing all submitted notes (whether "published" or not) will be available to download.

Original Posts Won't Be Downplayed

Twitter says that even where the Birdwatch notes appear, they system won't affect the prominence it gives to the original posts when deciding what to show users who have their account to show "Top Tweets," rather than everything in chronological order. It hasn't said whether users will be able to opt out of seeing the notes.

Giving more power to users may be a way for Twitter to sidestep criticism about how its own staff decide what content should and shouldn't be removed or highlighted as misleading. The company's recent decision to permanently suspend Donald Trump's account prompted debate not just about the merits of that decision but the societal impact of a private company exercising its right to decide who can and can't publish content on its site.

What's Your Opinion?

Does Birdwatch this sound like a useful system? Is it sensible to emphasize "explanatory notes" rather than simply removing or labeling false information? Do you believe that Twitter simply trying to avoid responsibility for its own "editorial" decisions?

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Navy vet's picture

This is just another lame attempt to silence the latest criticism of their new weave of bans.

Gurugabe's picture

Most of these watchers will have a one-sided view according to their personal beliefs. What is to stop them from polluting the feeds with their views? That is a far cry from the first amendment!

DavidInMississippi's picture

This has been a valid question since the time of the Roman Empire and before. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" is a famous Latin saying - means the same thing.

The problem is this: HOW do people decide what is misleading, and what is valid but simply unpopular, or not fitting-in with the current narrative.

A million people shouting that something is a lie (or false, or even misleading) does not make it so. Truth is not a thing to be voted on. It is an absolute.

And therefore, anyone claiming that something is misleading needs to have very convincing evidence of why they say so.

For example, in the 70's and 80's, the big tobacco industry virtuously proclaimed their "scientific research" proved there was no link between smoking and lung cancer. Was this misleading? Who could say so with any authority?

Today, there are dozens of conflicting claims regarding Vitamin D, hydroxychloroquine, and COVID. How does one person decide which of these claims are valid and which are "misleading?"

And how do WE know that decider is someone in whom we can put credibility?

In other words, who watches the watchers?

buzzallnight's picture

and do not have lung cancer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LouisianaJoe's picture

When Twitter, Facebook et al began removing content based on their political views, I quit using them. I believe that all of us should be allowed to disagree with each other without threats or attempts to hurt others based on politics. There was a time when we could discuss political differences without resorting to hate.

matt_2058's picture

It's nice to see some logic in comments talking about what's true and what's not. And who makes that decision. And I'm not referring to Twitter.

This solution from Twitter is eyewash. It's a way of absolving themselves from the controversy they created by being so biased. Slick, and bad ethics, but that's just my opinion.