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Twitter Moves to the Next Stage of Testing for its ‘Birdwatch’ Crowdsourced Fact-Checking Program

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Twitter Moves to the Next Stage of Testing with its 'Birdwatch' Crowdsourced Fact-Checking Program


After a year of testing, Twitter has announced some new updates to its Birdwatch crowdsourced fact-checking program, which enables Twitter users to add notes to Tweets that they believe contain misleading information.

As you can see, through Birdwatch, users can add in manual notes and tips on tweets, which can help to provide more context to future readers. And while that could also be problematic, in terms of people using it as a tool to silence dissenting opinions, Birdwatch reports don’t limit a tweet’s reach or performance, as such, they merely provide more context to those that seek it. And if a lot of people are saying it’s false, it probably is, while Twitter’s also working with official fact-checking groups and journalists to add more credibility to the notes.

And now, Twitter’s looking to take Birdwatch to the next stage:

Starting today, a small (and randomized) group of people on Twitter in the US will see Birdwatch notes directly on some Tweets. They’ll also be able to rate notes, providing input that will help improve Birdwatch’s ability to add context that is helpful to people from different points of view.

As you can see in these example screenshots, now, some users will see Birdwatch notes displayed upfront on tweets in their timeline, and they’ll also be prompted to rate that supplemental information to further qualify the info.

That’ll no doubt raise the ire of free speech activists, who already feel that social platforms are over-stepping the fact-checking mark, but it could be a simple, valuable way to facilitate crowd-sourced fact-checking, while also reducing the reach of questionable claims.

But again, it could also be problematic. You can imagine that some groups will ‘brigade’ these reports if they can, in order to counter claims they don’t like or agree with – though Twitter does have some additional qualifiers for its displayed notes.

“To appear on a Tweet, notes first need to be rated helpful by enough Birdwatch contributors from different perspectives. Difference in perspectives is determined by how people have rated notes in the past, not based on demographics.

So there is a weighting of some sort to the Birdwatch responses, which could eliminate bias, at least to some degree.

But the process is still a work in progress, which is why Twitter’s taking its time, and only launching this new update to a small group to begin with.

As explained by Twitter’s GM of Consumer Services Kayvon Beykpour:

 “An open and community-driven program like this is extremely ambitious (we look to Wikipedia as a source of inspiration here), and ultimately only effective if it’s able to result in high quality and informative content consistently, at scale, and through self-correcting incentives. Everything we’ve learned so far makes us feel even more encouraged by the potential for impact as Birdwatch scales.”

Indeed, there have been some encouraging signs for the program thus far, with Twitter reporting that those who’ve viewed Birdwatch notes are 20-40% less likely to agree with the substance of a potentially misleading Tweet, while the majority of users who’ve seen them have found the Birdwatch notes to be helpful. 

Twitter’s still working through the full details, and it has made various changes to the process, including ensuring diversity among Birdwatch participants and adding Birdwatch aliases so people can make reports without fear of being identified and targeted for their comments.

Birdwatch aliases

It’s an ambitious program, and it’s still too early to say whether Birdwatch will prove valuable, but the concept has merit, using a Reddit-style crowd-sourcing system to refute questionable claims, without having to introduce downvotes like Reddit’s process.

And it could prove to be a valuable addition to the broader detection scope of the platform. Despite the test running for a year, however, it’s still really early days, and it seems right for Twitter to take a cautious approach with this next stage.





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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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4 new social media features you need to know about this week

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New social media features to know this week


Social media never stands still. Every week there are new features — and it’s hard for the busy comms pro to stay up-to-date on it all.

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

LinkedIn

Social media sleuth Matt Navarra reported on Twitter that LinkedIn will soon make the newsletters you subscribe to through the site visible to other users.

This should aid newsletter discovery by adding in an element of social proof: if it’s good enough for this person I like and respect, it’s good enough for me. It also might be anopportunity to get your toe in the water with LinkedIn’s newsletter features.

Instagram

After admitting they went a little crazy on Reels and ignored their bread and butter of photographs, Instagram continues to refine its platform and algorithm. Although there were big changes over the last few weeks, these newer changes are subtler but still significant.

 

 

First, the animated avatars will be more prominent on profiles. Users can now choose to flip between the cartoony, waving avatar and their more traditional profile picture, rather than picking one or the other, TechCrunch reported, seemingly part of a push to incorporate metaverse-esque elements into the app.

Instagram also appears to have added an option to include a lead form on business profiles. We say “appears” because, as Social Media Today reports, the feature is not yet listed as an official feature, though it has rolled out broadly.

The feature will allow businesses to use standard forms or customize their own, including multiple choice questions or short answer.

Twitter

In the chaotic world of Twitter updates, this week is fairly staid — with a useful feature for advertisers.

The platform will roll out the ability to promote tweets among search results. As Twitter’s announcement points out, someone actively searching for a term could signal stronger intent than someone merely passively scrolling a feed.

Which of these new features are you most interested in? That LinkedIn newsletter tool could be great for spreading the word — and for discovering new reads.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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