Twitter is introducing aliases for participants in its Birdwatch moderation tool so they don’t have to include their usernames in notes they leave on others’ tweets, the company announced in a blog post Monday. The social media platform launched the pilot of Birdwatch in January as a way to crowdsource fact-checking on tweets that might contain misleading or inaccurate information. But the company said contributors in the pilot Birdwatch program “overwhelmingly voiced a preference for contributing under aliases. This preference was strongest for women and Black contributors.”
Introducing Birdwatch aliases! We want everyone to feel comfortable contributing to Birdwatch, and aliases let you write and rate notes without sharing your Twitter username. pic.twitter.com/ROlbpYvT7u— Birdwatch (@birdwatch) November 22, 2021
Twitter said its research shows that aliases have the potential to reduce bias by putting the focus not on the author of a Birdwatch note but on the note’s content. It also found that aliases may help to “reduce polarization by helping people feel comfortable crossing partisan lines.”
Twitter introduced a pilot of the Birdwatch program in January, which allows participating users to fact-check tweets and add notes with additional context. Birdwatch participants can also rate each others’ notes. The notes aren’t otherwise visible on Twitter but are displayed on the public Birdwatch website. Applicants to the Birdwatch program are asked to promise to act in good faith and “be helpful, even to those who disagree,” as conditions for participating: “Genuinely and constructively contribute to help others stay informed. Do not attempt to game or manipulate the system.”
Twitter also said Monday it was rolling out Birdwatch profile pages “to ensure this change doesn’t come at the expense of accountability.” This will make users’ past Birdwatch contributions visible and allow contributors to be “accountable” to the ratings their notes receive.
For people participating in the Birdwatch pilot who contributed under their Twitter usernames prior to Monday, all previous contributions will now appear to come from whatever alias they choose, not their Twitter username. “That said, if someone who previously read one of your notes happened to recall the username that wrote it, they could possibly infer your alias,” the company noted, adding that users could opt to delete all of their prior Birdwatch contributions by contacting Twitter directly in a DM to @birdwatch.