Is Community Notes the singular solution to effective content moderation on social apps? No.
Is it a handy complement that can assist in addressing various forms of misinformation and misrepresentation, while also enabling users to better highlight concerns in posts? Definitely.
The challenge lies somewhere in between, as Elon looks to push Notes as X’s main safety net to address all types of concerns, while analysts continue to highlight flaws in the Community Notes system, which is leading to more misleading content being amplified in the app.
Though this will help.
Today, X has announced that it will now distribute more notifications to users who’ve engaged with a post that’s later had a Community Note appended.
As per X:
“Sometimes a note appears on a post after you’ve seen it. To help, Community Notes sends notifications to people who have engaged with a post that later receives a note. We’ve now scaled it up to handle even the most visible and highly-engaged posts, so more of you will be (and are already) seeing these.”
This is a good addition, which will help to at the least raise questions among X users about the content that they’ve seen, replied to, Liked, etc.
If a post, for example, gave them the impression that something had happened, when it actually hadn’t, these kinds of follow-ups could be very effective in slowing the spread of false reports, which would also include deepfakes, AI-generated images, etc.
There is a lot to like about Community Notes in this respect. But again, the problem is not so much that the Notes are overly unreliable, nor that they don’t serve a purpose. It’s more than X is putting too much faith in the process being the savior for its misinformation issues, by letting users decide what’s true and what’s not, without X management stepping in, or at least, not stepping in at the same level that Twitter’s past health and safety team had been.
But a lot of this comes down to perception. As per its “Twitter Files” internal exploration shortly after the company changed hands, Elon and Co. outlined what they perceived to be massive corruption in information flow, as the past Twitter team sought to suppress certain information at the behest of government officials.
But that’s not really what the documents showed. What the insights did show is that Twitter’s health and safety team worked with various official authorities to ensure that it remained aware of related concerns. Some of those it actioned, most it didn’t, but the reports demonstrated what most would view as a responsible approach to managing key discussions, and the amplification of such, through official partnerships that could have some bearing on future strategy.
The problem is, this also involved an issue that Elon himself believes was a conspiracy theory, in the COVID pandemic.
In dealing with COVID, the Twitter team made decisions based on the best information it had at the time, and in retrospect, some of those calls may not have been correct. But that’s in retrospect, and in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, the team were doing what they could. But that’s all the evidence that Elon and his team needed to flag this as mass censorship, marking Twitter as a vehicle for “accepted narratives”, which he’s now determined that X will never be.
Which is why he wants Community Notes to work, so that some information deemed untrue, false, misleading, some of that will still get through. Because you can’t trust the mainstream discussion, but you can trust the people, in Musk’s view.
The problem with that is Community Notes doesn’t really work in highlighting a lot of misinformation because it’s based on political consensus, meaning that people from both sides of the political spectrum need to agree on notes before they’re displayed.
On a range of highly divisive issues, that agreement will never come. Like COVID, the war in Israel, the war in Ukraine, border protection, etc. Some of these are hardline topics, that no one’s going to concede. So relevant Notes are never shown, and never seen, leading to broad circulation of misleading claims, based on X’s own system.
Is that a better outcome than having X’s own team step in? It’s impossible to say, but I do feel that, at some point, this is going to lead to significant issues as a result.
So while there are good points to the process, and there is a definite value in Community Notes, and notifications like these new retrospective prompts, the process is not what Elon and Co. think. Which could be problematic.
Conceptually, there’s a logic there, and other approaches, like Reddit’s up and downvotes system, have provided similar results.
But Community Notes is unlikely to be the shield that Musk seems to believe, or want to believe, as he reforms the app.
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