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Twitter Announces Birdwatch – Volunteer Program Against Misinformation via @martinibuster

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Twitter announced a new anti-misinformation initiative. The plan is to use a transparent community-based approach to identifying misinformation. This is a pilot program restricted to the United States.

Twitter Birdwatch

Birdwatch is a system where contributors create “notes” about misinformation found on tweets. The notes are meant to provide context.

The notes will initially not be visible from the tweets but exist on a separate site located on a subdomain of Twitter (birdwatch.twitter.com) that currently redirects to twitter.com/i/birdwatch.

The goal is to eventually show the notes on the tweets that are judged to contain misinformation.

That way Twitter community members can be made aware of the low quality of a tweet.

Community Approach

What Twitter is proposing is a passive form of content moderation.

Many forums and social media sites (including Twitter) have a way for members to report a post when it is problematic in some way. Typical reasons for reporting a post can be spam, bullying, or misinformation.

This is a passive form of moderating content in a community, which is the form of moderation that Twitter is taking.

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Community-driven moderation is a more proactive step because members, usually called moderators, can delete or edit a problematic post.

Birdwatch’s approach is limited to creating notes about a problematic post. Contributors will not be able to actually remove a bad post.

According to Twitter:

“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.”

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Example of How Birdwatch Works

Birdwatch has three components:

  1. Notes
  2. Ratings
  3. Birdwatch site

Birdwatch Notes

Birdwatch community moderators attach notes to tweets they judge to be problematic. The note process begins with clicking the three dot menu and selecting the Notes option.

Screenshot of an example of a Twitter Birdwatch process

Screenshot of an example of a Twitter Birdwatch process

Thereafter the note process involves answering multiple choice questions and adding feedback within a text area.

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Example of Twitter Birdwatch Notes

Screenshot of a Twitter Birdwatch note example

Screenshot of a Twitter Birdwatch note example

Here is an example of a helpful Birdwatch note:

Screenshot of a helpful Twitter Birdwatch note

Screenshot of a helpful Twitter Birdwatch note

This is an example of an unhelpful Birdwatch note:

Screenshot of an example of an unhelpful Birdwatch note

Screenshot of an example of an unhelpful Birdwatch note

Note Ranking

The next component of Birdwatch is community ranking of each other’s notes. This is a way for members to upvote or downvote rankings so that the best ranked notes can be selected as representative of an accurate note.

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This is a way for the community to self-moderate notes so that only the best and non-manipulative notes make it to the top.

Transparency of Twitter Birdwatch

The Birdwatch system is transparent. That means all the data is available to be downloaded and viewed by anyone from the Birdwatch Download page.

Try It and See Approach

Twitter acknowledges that the pilot program is a work in process and that issues such as malicious efforts to manipulate the program are things that will have to be dealt with as they turn up.

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Twitter did not, however, offer a plan for dealing with community manipulation.

This is their statement:

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors. We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

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This seems like an ad-hoc approach to dealing with problems as they arise as opposed to anticipating them and having a plan in place to deal with them.

Community-driven Fight Against Misinformation

I have almost twenty years of experience moderating and running forums. In my experience, community administrators identify trustworthy members and make them moderators, allowing the volunteer members to help run the community themselves.

In a healthy community, moderators do not function like police who are enforcing rules. In a well-operated community moderators are more like servants that help the community function better.

What Twitter is proposing falls short of true moderation. It’s more of an attempt to provide trustworthy feedback on problematic posts that contain misinformation.

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Citations

Read the official announcement:
Introducing Birdwatch, a Community-based Approach to Misinformation

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Sign up for Birdwatch
http://twitter.github.io/birdwatch/join

Searchenginejournal.com

NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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