This week, X (formerly Twitter) introduced a modification to its Community Notes feature, which facilitates crowdsourced fact-checking. In this updated version, users will have the opportunity to assess all the notes proposed as annotations to an X post, rather than only the one they are currently reviewing. In essence, this alteration allows contributors to contemplate other notes before submitting their rating, potentially influencing them to change their perspective.
While this adjustment may seem subtle, it carries the potential to encourage Community Notes contributors to consider diverse viewpoints, rather than merely aligning with the consensus on the helpfulness of a note, which determines whether it is publicly displayed as a crowdsourced fact-check below the X post.
X has justified this change by stating that “contributors need as much valuable information as possible” when assessing notes. Nonetheless, it also serves as a means to present alternative perspectives to contributors, which could alter their judgment or contribute to the confusion regarding which proposed note is the most helpful and accurate. Initial feedback on this update on X has been largely positive, but its practical impact on whether more contributors will reconsider their choices and opt for alternative notes as more helpful remains to be seen.
Even in X’s provided example, there are two notes presented, both of which could be considered helpful. One note corrects misinformation by stating that whales are mammals, while the other argues that no note is required because the account is a parody account. Both notes are factually correct, but the latter could prompt Community Note contributors to omit additional context from a tweet.
This situation could become more intricate if the parody account is of a political nature, and the statements marked as “not needing correction” constitute misinformation that one faction is trying to propagate. In such a case, removing the note simply because it’s a parody account could be more harmful, especially if users neglect to review the account’s bio where its parody nature is disclosed.
Community Notes initially debuted as Birdwatch in 2021, predating Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform formerly known as Twitter. This feature is among the platform’s more innovative tools, utilizing an algorithm to identify consensus among groups with differing viewpoints before highlighting crowdsourced fact-checks to other users. Additionally, Community Notes contributors must first demonstrate their capability by rating notes as helpful or not helpful, earning points when their ratings align with the larger community’s final decision.
Under Musk’s ownership, the system has continued to evolve, including the recent launch of Community Notes for videos and various other changes aimed at streamlining the process and addressing issues related to low-quality contributions.