It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. – George Orwell, 1984
In 1984 George Orwell describes a league of young informants who serve the totalitarian state by running around and reporting on adults who say, think, or do anything that could be deemed as unacceptable to Big Brother.
This group was known as “The Spies.” It seems that Twitter has taken a page out of Orwell’s book.
Despite coming under intense scrutiny for taking actions against conservative users (most notably permanently banning the former President of the United States while Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei still have their accounts active) Twitter has developed a new initiative that
is already attracting pushback.
The new program, named “Birdwatch,” is Twitter’s latest move in its self-proclaimed, self-righteous war on misinformation. It is unlikely to make conservatives feel more welcomed.
Birdwatch aims to essentially “crowd-fund” fact checks on the platform. Users can sign up to become a Birdwatch participant, and then add “context” to tweets they believe are misleading. If enough users add similar context, it will be published to the tweet.
According to Birdwatch’s account handle: “We believe that a transparent, community-driven approach to identifying misleading information and elevating helpful context can help us all create a better-informed world.”
But not everyone is enthused about the new idea. A quick perusal of the comments in reply to some of Birdwatch’s tweets show that the public is uneasy. Concerns raised about abuse and infringement upon certain groups were common.
Examples:
Big Brother (and Twitter) are watching You! 1
Twitter, like much of our political discourse, is already a nasty place. It contains insults, judgment, and yes, sometimes misleading information. But in a time when political division is at its worst, and half of America doesn’t trust or understand the other half, creating a system where groups get to grade others’ opinions and comments seems like pouring gasoline on the fire.
Here’s a relevant section from 1984: “Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling, so vicious was the
boy’s demeanour, that it was not altogether a game… “Suddenly they were both leaping round him, shouting ‘Traitor!’ and ‘Thought-criminal!’ the little girl
imitating her brother in every movement.”
Big Brother (and Twitter) are watching You!And just take a look at Birdwatch’s logo – it is practically stolen from a “Big Brother is Watching You” poster!
As George Orwell said that parents became frightened of their own children, with programs like Birdwatch, it is likely that Americans will become more frightened of
each other.

Author

  • Adam Houser

    Adam Houser coordinates student leaders as National Director of CFACT's collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.