X (formerly Twitter) this week changed how its crowdsourced fact-checking Community Notes feature works. In the new design, users will be able to review all the notes that have been proposed as annotations to an X post, rather than just the one note they’re currently reviewing. In other words, it will allow contributors to consider other notes before leaving their rating — and possibly, could convince them to change their mind.
It’s a subtle tweak but one that could influence Community Notes contributors to consider different viewpoints, rather than simply agreeing with the crowd that a note is helpful — which means the note is displayed publicly to X’s users below the post as a crowdsourced fact-check.
X says this change was needed as “it’s important that contributors have as much helpful information as possible,” when rating notes.
However, it’s also a way to put alternative points of view in front of contributors, which could change their thinking or add to confusion over which of the proposed notes is actually the most helpful and the most accurate. Feedback on X was largely positive over the update, but it remains to be seen in practice if this will lead to more contributors possibly changing their minds and selecting other, alternative notes as more helpful instead of the one they’re currently viewing.
Even in the example X provided, there are two notes presented where both could be considered helpful. One corrects misinformation in a tweet by noting that whales are, in fact, mammals, while the other says a note isn’t needed because the account is a parody account. Both notes are actually true — but the latter could encourage Community Note contributors to remove the added context from a tweet.
This could get more complicated if the parody account was of a political nature and the statements that “don’t need correction” are misinformation one side is trying to spread. Removing the note in that case, simply because it’s a parody account, could be more harmful if users didn’t bother to check the account’s bio where the account disclosed its parody nature.
Community Notes first launched as Birdwatch in 2021, prior to Elon Musk’s acquisition of the network formerly known as Twitter. One of the platform’s more innovative features, the system uses an algorithm that looks to find consensus across groups where there are differing points of view before it highlights the crowdsourced fact-checks to other users. In addition, Community Notes contributors first have to prove they’re capable by rating notes as helpful or not helpful and earning points when their rating ends up in alignment with the larger community’s final decision.
The system has continued to be updated under Musk’s ownership, having recently launched Community Notes for videos, among other changes designed to streamline the process and address low-quality contributions.