Twitter is developing a new product called “Birdwatch,” which the company confirms is an attempt at addressing misinformation across its platform by providing more context for tweets, in the form of notes. Tweets can be added to “Birdwatch” — meaning flagged for moderation — from the tweet’s drop-down menu, where other blocking and reporting tools are found today. A small binoculars icon will also appear on tweets published to the Twitter Timeline. When the button is clicked, users are directed to a screen where they can view the tweet’s history of notes.
Based on screenshots of Birdwatch unearthed through reverse engineering techniques, a new tab called “Birdwatch Notes” will be added to Twitter’s sidebar navigation, alongside other existing features like Lists, Topics, Bookmarks and Moments.
This section will allow you to keep track of your own contributions, aka your “Birdwatch Notes.”
The feature was first uncovered this summer in early stages of development by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found the system through Twitter’s website. At the time, Birdwatch didn’t have a name, but it clearly showed an interface for flagging tweets, voting on whether or not the tweet was misleading, and adding a note with further explanations.
Twitter updated its web app a few days after her discovery, limiting further investigation.
This week, however, a very similar interface was again discovered in Twitter’s code, this time on iOS.
According to social media consultant Matt Navarra, who tweeted several more screenshots of the feature on mobile, Birdwatch allows users to attach notes to a tweet. These notes can be viewed when clicking on the binoculars button on the tweet itself.
In other words, additional context about the statements made in the tweet would be open to the public.
What’s less clear is whether everyone on Twitter will be given access to annotate tweets with additional context, or whether this permission will require approval, or only be open to select users or fact checkers.
Twitter early adopter and hashtag inventor Chris Messina openly wondered if Birdwatch could be some sort of “citizen’s watch” system for policing disinformation on Twitter. It turns out, he was right.
According to line items he found within Twitter’s code, these annotations — the “Birdwatch Notes” — are referred to as “contributions,” which does seem to imply a crowdsourced system. (After all, a user would contribute to a shared system, not to a note they were writing for only themselves to see.)
Crowdsourcing moderation wouldn’t be new to Twitter. For several years, Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope has relied on crowdsourcing techniques to moderate comments on its real-time streams in order to clamp down on abuse.
There is still much we don’t know about how Birdwatch will work from a non-technical perspective, however. We don’t know if everyone will have the same abilities to annotate tweets, how attempts to troll this system will be handled, or what would happen to a tweet if it got too many negative dings, for example.
In more recent months, Twitter has tried to take a harder stance on tweets that contain misleading, false or incendiary statements. It has even gone so far as to apply fact-check labels to some of Trump’s tweets and has hidden others behind a notice warning users that the tweet has violated Twitter’s rules. But scaling moderation across all of Twitter is a task the company has not been well-prepared for, as it built for scale first, then tried to figure out policies and procedures around harmful content after the fact.
Reached for comment, Twitter declined to offer details regarding its plans for Birdwatch, but did confirm the feature was designed to combat the spread of misinformation.
“We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it,” they added.
Update, 10/3/20: Jane Manchun Wong has now uncovered more details about Birdwatch, including the “Twitter Community” form, where users explain whether or not a tweet is misleading.
Twitter’s product lead Kayvon Beykpour responded that the company is excited to share more information soon.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
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.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
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.”
Continue Reading Below
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
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.
Continue Reading Below
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.
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.
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.
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