Twitter finally enlists help from Reuters and the AP for fact-checking

A welcome and long-overdue move toward proactive misinformation control.

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Twitter is partnering with The Associated Press and Reuters to diversify its fact-checking capabilities. It’s the first time Twitter’s worked directly with news organizations on fact-checking; it shows the company’s commitment to de-platforming misinformation is still very much a work-in-progress.

“We are committed to making sure that when people come to Twitter to see what’s happening, they are able to easily find reliable information,” writes Joanna Geary, senior director of Twitter’s curation team, in an announcement.

When it comes to misinformation, Twitter’s allowances might not be quite as notorious as Facebook’s — but it does very much live and thrive on the platform. The company has, in the recent past, taken a number of unique measures to combat this misinformation, including the introduction of a crowdsourced fact-checking system called Birdwatch and the use of a “Curation” team that attempts to editorialize larger conversations happening across the social network.

These experimental efforts haven’t been quite enough to put out the many fires constantly threatening to engulf the entirety of Twitter in flames. It’s time to bring in the big guns.

Expanding what’s already working — Both Reuters and AP will work with Twitter on expanding its current efforts, such as improving context markers on Trends and Topics. Twitter says specifically that the Curation team will pass the buck to one of these publications when the contextualization moves too far outside their areas of expertise.

Professional fact-checkers from these publications will also work on making experimental features like Birdwatch better than they currently are. Which is very good news indeed, seeing as Birdwatch feedback has some major flaws at the moment.

And going proactive — Moreover, Twitter hopes its new fact-checkers will help the company’s overall misinformation strategy move away from the reactive.

"Rather than waiting until something goes viral,” the company says, “Twitter will contextualize developing discourse at pace with or in anticipation of the public conversation.”

This marks a significant shift in Twitter’s misinformation strategy, which, like Facebook’s, has long focused on damage control after the fact. Though refuting misinformation after it’s spread is certainly the easiest way to catch it, it’s by no means the most efficient methodology. By the time the fire’s been put out, far too many people have caught a whiff of the smoke. The damage has already been done.

Given the sheer volume of content being pumped onto Twitter every day, there’s no way the company can manage all the lies on its own. Even with the help of Reuters and AP, there’s bound to be a fair amount that slips through the cracks. The help will be invaluable nonetheless.