Twitter is a tool for sharing information, and if you are fortunate, your tweet can go viral. However, some people use social media platforms to spread misinformation. Twitter is expanding its misinformation reporting tool to more countries to counter this.
To a reasonable degree, Twitter wants any info spread on its platform to be nothing but the truth. However, some actors prefer to spread misinformation using social media networks. They spread half-truths or outright lies about topics like the election or the Covid pandemic. This will become harder to do now that Twitter is allowing more users to use a feature it introduced last August.
The feature was available in select markets, the US included, and let users report tweets containing misinformation. Twitter is now inviting users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines to join the US, Australia, and South Korea.
Twitter shared that the feature has been popular, with more than 3.7 million reports submitted since August. That is significant, given the number of active daily users from the countries allowed to participate in the program.
Yael Roth, head of Twitter integrity, revealed the company uses automated actions to act on most of the content that merited attention. However, with users submitting reports with the new feature, Twitter can better identify and understand misinformation patterns. The tool has proven to be helpful in this regard because Twitter can now better spot URLs that offend the most, even when the misinformation comes in the form of pictures and not text or when the false info is hosted on another site.
Roth also revealed that this reporting tool is also open to abuse. When Twitter analyzed the user-generated reports, only about 10 percent were worthy of attention, meaning the vast majority of the reported tweets did not contain misinformation. This is significantly lower than the percentages for other categories of reports, which are between 20 and 30 percent. Apparently, some users reported content they didn’t like.
However, the large volume of reports assists Twitter to finetune its filtering and prioritizing algorithm.
If you are in a market allowed to participate, you report a tweet containing misinformation by tapping on the upper-right three-dot menu on the tweet and selecting the ‘report tweet’ option. You will then see another option that lets you specify that you are reporting the tweet for being misleading.
Twitter has had a mechanism for reporting tweets for some time, but there was no direct way to flag content as misinformation. The former options were suspicious or abusive.
While this flagging option is new, Twitter will take action using one of its existing methods. Misinformation tweets are processed using human reviewers and moderation to determine whether the concerned account should be disciplined or not. The reports are also reviewed based on priority, with reports dealing with larger accounts or accounts with more engagements bumped to the front of the queue.
Social media companies have been facing pressure to reduce how users spread lies that could harm people on their platforms. They have been threatened with regulations that will restrict their operation or penalties. However, this pressure is complicated by allegations of the social media companies silencing some groups of people when content is regulated, thereby infringing on their first amendment rights.
Twitter is running an experimental way of fighting misinformation separately from this new reporting feature. With Birdwatch, users can label a tweet as misleading, effectively crowd-sourcing fact-checking. The service is in a pilot test, and participants can attach factual information to offending tweets.