Birds of a feather don’t fact-check each other: Partisanship and the evaluation of news in Twitter’s Birdwatch crowdsourced fact-checking program


There is a great deal of interest in the role that partisanship, and cross-party animosity in particular, plays in interactions on social media. Most prior research, however, must infer users’ judgments of others’ posts from engagement data. Here, we leverage data from Birdwatch, Twitter’s crowdsourced fact-checking pilot program, to directly measure judgments of whether other users’ tweets are misleading, and whether other users’ free-text evaluations of third-party tweets are helpful. For both sets of judgments, we find that contextual features – in particular, the partisanship of the users – are far more predictive of judgments than the content of the tweets and evaluations themselves. Specifically, users are more likely to write negative evaluations of tweets from counter-partisans; and are more likely to rate evaluations from counter-partisans as unhelpful. Our findings provide clear evidence that Birdwatch users preferentially challenge content from those with whom they disagree politically. While not necessarily indicating that Birdwatch is ineffective for identifying misleading content, these results demonstrate the important role that partisanship can play in content evaluation. Platform designers must consider the ramifications of partisanship when implementing crowdsourcing programs.

Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Jennifer Allen
Jennifer Allen
PhD Student in Marketing, MIT Sloan School of Management

My research interests include misinformation, political persuasion, and crowdsourcing.