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Twitter Birdwatch: Fact-Checking on Socialist Steroids?

On January 25th, Vice President Keith Coleman announced Birdwatch, Twitter’s new “community-based approach to misinformation.

I’m surprised the company that deplatformed the sitting President of the United States sees the need for a ‘community-based approach’ to censorship given their internal censorship system worked so flawlessly during last November’s US Presidential Election right through January 20th, 2021.

Call me pessimistic if you must, but I’ll let Twitter’s Keith Coleman describe Birdwatch in his own words and let you decide. 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.

Birdwatch is a Tweet annotation service that allows individuals to flag anything they believe is misinformation and add a contextual note for their beliefs.

The only difference appears to be that instead of Twitter’s censorious staff flagging Tweets that to not meet acceptable GroupThink standards, ordinary people will do the flagging instead.

I liken it to an echo chamber where all ‘context’ is designed to reinforce a predetermined narrative by dismissing any Tweet that does not comply with that narrative. Birdwatch is Twitter fact-checking on socialist steroids. It’s crowd-sourced marginalisation of ‘non-approved’ thought and expression with one goal: to remove those ‘unsanctioned’ individuals from the Twitter platform.

I see this going one of two ways, given the requirement to apply for Birdwatch and be approved by Twitter before you can gain access to it. The approval process will favour a band of the political spectrum, leading to an even more one-sided view than we already get from Twitter’s ‘fact-checkers’.

Or, they will approve people across the political spectrum and the Twitterverse will simply add a new layer of toxicity to an already toxic platform. Either way, rational discourse loses. If Twitter can deplatform the sitting President of the United States of America, do you honestly believe Twitterites will think twice about deplatforming you?

Birdwatch Eligibility

To participate in the pilot program for Birdwatch you must have:

  • a verified phone number and email address

  • a trusted US-based cellular phone service

  • two-factor authentication enabled on your Twitter account

  • no recent notice of Twitter Rules violations

Ensuring a real human is attached to each Twitter account before granting access to the program is laudable. Given Twitter’s penchant for unbridled censorship over the past year, that alone gives me zero confidence in Twitter’s new, crowd-sourced fact-checking tool.

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