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Another key element of Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter 2.0’ reformation plan is now in place, with Twitter opening up its Community Notes tweet context indicators to all users globally.
Well, sort of – as of today, all Twitter users can view Community Notes attached to tweets, but only US-based users can create them, though Twitter says that more contributors from other regions will be able to add notes to tweets soon.
As per Twitter:
“People everywhere can now see and rate notes, helping to ensure notes are helpful to those from a wide range of views. You can see notes that are currently rated helpful and showing on Twitter here. If you don’t see them yet, don’t fret, it’s in the process of rolling out.”
Twitter originally launched Community Notes – then called ‘Birdwatch’- in January last year, as a means to expand its efforts to combat misinformation in tweets.
As you can see in this example, through Community Notes, contributors, who are approved users within the Twitter community, can add contextual notes to tweets that may contain potentially misleading info.
Tweets with these notes then show up with an indicator in-stream, alerting users to the additional info.
The idea is that by leaving it to the Twitter community to provide notes on tweets, that will enable Twitter to take a more hands-off approach to moderation, because it won’t be Twitter’s own team that needs to dictate the rules, as such, but ‘the people’ will get to decide on what is and is not acceptable, via crowdsourced notes.
Which new Twitter chief Elon Musk, for one, thinks is the best way forward for the app.
Community Notes is a gamechanger for improving accuracy on Twitter!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 10, 2022
Musk says that Community Notes ‘will have a powerful impact on falsehoods’ in the app, because it will enable a broad range of inputs to rate the accuracy and truth of statements made within tweets, which will also, at least theoretically, remove political bias, which Musk believes has corrupted Twitter’s moderation efforts in the past.
But now, with more contributors, and more notes flowing in, Twitter’s users will have their say, with the court of arbitration being those who are participants in the very same discussions, making it a better representation of community sentiment and acceptance, rather than a ruling by Twitter’s internal management.
In many ways, it’s similar to Reddit’s up and downvotes, with the community able to dictate how posts are displayed in the app by voting on each. Community Notes is different, in that it also includes contextual notes, and it won’t impact the display of tweets in the same way. But by letting users add notes, and vote on the accuracy of those amendments, that should help to provide valuable pointers on divisive comments, which could help to facilitate more understanding and context.
If it works as intended. There is some risk that the tool will be used to highlight partisan views, and bury opposing perspectives, with armies of activists potentially downvoting opposing opinions to reduce their impact.
If, for example, a tweet were to say that ‘the COVID vaccine is unsafe’, groups dedicated to boosting this message could all coordinate to vote that the note is ‘helpful’, which could then see it gain traction as a source of truth, whether that statement is actually true or not.
The risk of crowdsourcing truth in this way is that you risk amplifying, or validating what people believe, or want, to be true, which is not always the same as the truth itself. Maybe, if enough people contribute, that’ll play out as hoped, but there is a level of risk in this approach, while it also won’t solve all of the app’s problems with misinformation and harmful messaging, as Musk has seemingly implied.
But it might be worth a shot – and if it works as intended, Twitter could eventually put more tweet ranking emphasis on these notes, to ensure that the best information gets more amplification in the app.
We’ll find out, with all users now able to see and vote on the value of Community Notes in the app, and more notes contributors being onboarded soon.