Twitter announced a “community-led” moderation forum called Birdwatch on Monday and some users immediately began criticizing it for amplifying the possibility of shutting down free speech.
“Today we’re introducing @Birdwatch, a community-driven approach to addressing misleading information. And we want your help,” read a tweet from the platform’s support account.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) January 25, 2021
The statement made it clear that the new moderation tool was experimental in nature, and would be on a separate portion of the website. But the end goal was to have the moderation notes visible to users on tweets that have been flagged as misinformation.
“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading or false, and write notes that provide informative context,” wrote Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman in a news release.
“We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” he explained.
Twitter’s experiment comes at a time when some of its competitors, like Parler, are being deplatformed for lacking enough moderation against threats of violence.
Some users immediately noted that they were not allowed to participate in the Birdwatch system, while others aired their suspicions that the forum could be easily abused or manipulated to stifle free speech.
“Let’s be real: @birdwatch will mainly be progressives gaslighting center and right-of-center stories,” said radio talk show host Dana Loesch.
[S]ounds great in *theory*, but if there aren’t proper protections/moderation in place for it, marginalized users on this site WILL be harassed with it,” said another user.
“Birdwatch is likely to be like a game of telephone among drunk teenagers in a speeding car on an icy highway,” said another critic.
Others used the opportunity to crack jokes at Twitter’s expense.
Original name for Birdwatch was Ackshually,” quipped commentator Jon Gabriel.
Twitter has faced increased scrutiny of bias after it permanently banned former President Donald Trump and purged thousands of accounts that the company said had broken their terms of service.