In an online world, wherein every opinion could be said and heard by anyone, fact-checking is an essential tool to know which is right or wrong.
Twitter’s ‘Birdwatch’ program has proven that fact-checking can be easily done through online. However, a new analysis report reveals that what we thought as true, could actually be false—thanks to Twitter’s fact-checkers.
Introducing Twitter’s ‘Birdwatch’ program
In 2018, MIT researchers found out that Twitter is one of the most infiltrated social media platforms in the world.
In fact, they concluded that “false information travels faster than true stories” in this social media.
To solve this problem, Twitter introduced a program called ‘Birdwatch’ last month. Mainly, this program fact-checks all the information that has been circulating on the platform.
Currently, there are over 1,000 users logged-in to this program. They are the ones that decide which tweet to flag as misleading. In return, the fact-checkers are required to cite a credible source, explaining why the tweet was flagged as misleading in the first place.
The ‘Birdwatch’ failure
The research team analyzed almost 2,700 contributions from past flagged tweets of the ‘Birdwatch’ program.
Unfortunately, they found out that only less than half of the program’s tweets have submitted reliable sources to support their claims of flagged tweets.
This means, more than half of the fact-checkers in the program have not done their job to cross-reference the claims and articles, being posted in the platform.
Sometimes, flagged tweets do not have cited sources to support the claim of misleading content.
Researchers were able to find a sample tweet that showed how flawed is Twitter’s ‘Birdwatch’ program.
“According to the officiating (sic) source of TIME there was a well organized group of secret participants in a shadow organization that sounds like a cabal that worked together to sway the election in favor of Joe Biden,” reads one note. While the user includes a link to a Time Magazine article that indeed uses words like “cabal” and “conspiracy,” the context of the piece — that powerful groups were working behind the scenes to protect election integrity — is lost.
‘A degree of partisan’
To make it worse, the analysis also pointed out that Birdwatchers might seem to have ‘a degree of partisan’ within which tweets will be flagged or not.
“A majority of the most prolific Birdwatch user’s notes mark tweets critical of the right as ‘misleading’ and those critical of the left as ‘not misleading,'” according to the report.
It is true that fact-checking a certain claim, especially in the online world, is not an easy task.
However, Twitter said that the program is still under-improvement, which means they can commit mistakes.
“Our goal with the Birdwatch pilot is to build a system in which anyone can contribute, and that naturally elevates information that people find helpful,” said Twitter vice president of product Keith Coleman in an email. “We believe that openness in who can contribute is important, and that through input from a diverse group, the most helpful notes can be elevated.”
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