Birdwatching of Another Kind: How Regular Folk are Combatting Fake News

The art and science of news have unquestionably undergone a sea change since the advent of 24/7 news which began with CNN in 1980. Citizens are interested in current events. But they want them Current (with a capital C). Author Janet Kolodzy says, “their interest in news [is]growing; they [want] to know what is going on…And, they [want] it right now” (2012, p.1).

As a result of that desire for immediate gratification, there has been an ongoing increase in the use of Facebook as a primary news source. In 2013, researchers found that 47 percent of Facebook users got the news while on the site; that number had increased to 76 percent by 2016. The upward trend is caused by several factors, “personal choices, increased activity by news organizations, and Facebook’s changing algorithms” (Rodriguez, 2017, p.4). The growth is widespread and not limited to a specific demographic.

The rise of fake news makes it imperative that legitimate journalists and news organizations combat that with the publication of honest, rigorous news coverage. The speed with which news, both fake and real, could be disseminated on the platform has been a game-changer.

To Combat Fake News, the expectation is of near-instantaneous release of stories, which:

*Doesn’t allow for adequate in-depth fact-checking.

*Provides no context development.

*Allows incomplete or incorrect information to reach the public…

*who are then making decisions or forming opinions with incomplete or incorrect information.

Social networks like Facebook (Meta) and Twitter are rife with misinformation. And that’s no accident. The National Association of Broadcasters warns us to use critical thinking skills when we read stories online.

But the public can act as accountability partners; readers can publicly call out misinformation or help with fact-checking. In fact, Twitter has “Birdwatchers,” just regular folks who have made it their mission to find and debunk false claims on the platform. Alex Mahadevan and Harrison Mantas of Poynter interviewed several Birdwatchers, who explained why they believe strongly enough to invest time and energy into creating Community Notes to bring attention to truth on bogus Tweets. Ryan (a pseudonym), an ace fact-checker, offers this insight:

As the dynamic of the country shifts, we all, whether Red or Blue, owe it to each other to check the facts, check the sources, and check ourselves.


Big tech is a threat to local journalism. (n.d.) The National Association of Broadcasters.

Kolodzy, J. (2012). Practicing Convergence Journalism. Taylor & Francis.

Mahadevan, A. & Mantas, H. (2021, July 15). Here are Twitter’s most prolific citizen fact-checkers.

Rodriguez, S. (2017). How Facebook has transformed journalism. Liberty University.;!!BeImMA!5G952mMORXM6ZtlzP-91__KSpwdESfa_AsF5HO3RgEfR0IgNuV-EYqpOgCNztnISLu3OnbGqA4op57cr8-TvmCoWyEsM0Q$