Twitter Formalizes Its Birdwatch Program with Aliases, Profiles

Twitter is tweaking its Birdwatch crowdsourced fact-check feature, adding aliases so contributors can conceal their identities when notating someone’s tweet. The company says its goal in having people append anonymously is “keeping focus on the content of notes rather than who’s writing them,” reducing bias and tempering polarization. To ensure aliases don’t overshadow accountability, all Birdwatch accounts now have profile pages that aggregate past contributions, and the ratings those contributions received from other Birdwatchers, accruing credibility to contributors whose notes and ratings are consistently found helpful by others.

“The notes aren’t otherwise visible on Twitter but are displayed on the public Birdwatch website,” writes The Verge, noting, “applicants to the Birdwatch program are asked to promise to act in good faith and ‘be helpful, even to those who disagree,’ as conditions for participating.” Twitter requests Birdwatchers “genuinely and constructively contribute to help others stay informed,” and warns: “Do not attempt to game or manipulate the system.”

The Birdwatch profile pages are not associated with the contributor’s personal account. The profiles will feature ratings and will ideally serve as a form of accountability. “Hopefully, that’s something that helps with the reliability problem that has dogged the program,” which began piloting in January, suggests Engadget.

Twitter provides a Birdwatch link so participants can choose their alias. “You’ll have 5 random options to pick from, and at this time choices cannot be changed,” the company writes in its Birdwatch Guide.

Twitter says pilot participants “overwhelmingly voiced a preference for contributing under aliases. This preference was strongest for women and Black contributors.” While Birdwatch now automatically propagates aliases for new contributors, those who took part in the pilot using their personal Twitter handles will see their past comments automatically convert to their chosen alias.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable contributing to Birdwatch, and aliases let you write and rate notes without sharing your Twitter username,” Twitter writes in its Birdwatch Guide.

Birdwatch is one of several steps Twitter has taken to reduced disinformation. In August, the company announced a collaboration with the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters “to expand our efforts to identify and elevate credible information on Twitter.”

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