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Twitter’s Community Notes Fail to Tackle Divisive Content

Upon finally acquiring Twitter, Elon Musk spoke out about his goal to turn the social media platform into a highly accurate source of news. The Community Notes feature was a major aspect of this because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up much needed context to various tweets. Users can add context to tweets that can help the spread of misinformation, but recent analysis has shown that it fails to measure up to the task at hand.

Bloomberg News attempted to analyze the feature in order to see how effective it truly was. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that this analysis revealed some serious limitations that can prevent the feature from reaching its true potential. One thing that can be an enormous setback to the feature is that each Community Note needs to be approved by users from a wide range of ideological backgrounds and opinions.

It turns out that the vast majority of Community Notes, or 96% to be precise, failed to pass muster. Some topics that contain some of the worst misinformation out there include Covid, abortion as well as the legitimacy of elections around the world. In spite of the fact that this is the case, users from a diverse range of perspectives fail to come to a consensus about such topics for obvious reasons. That has the potential to make Community Notes far less effective than might have been the case otherwise.

The main issue here is that people from either end of the ideological spectrum will naturally have diverging views about the topics being discussed. Hence, attempting to get a consensus from them is nigh impossible. A much better way to legitimize community notes is to rely on something objective such as scientific consensus, but that might not be conducive to the type of fence sitting and horseshoe analysis that Elon Musk and his contemporaries have become known for as they seek simple answers to complex questions of varying kinds.

Only about thirteen notes end up getting posted on a daily basis, and that has left 30,000 in the wilderness with all things having been considered and taken into account. Musk has revoked a lot of Twitter’s authority when it comes to combatting misinformation, citing free speech as a value that should be held higher than anything else. However, when free speech comes at the cost of understanding the truth, it’s hard to argue that it is something worth fighting for particularly in the manner that Musk seems to be attempting.

This is not to say that Community Notes are ineffective. They have often been used to provide context to Elon Musk’s own tweets. However, the context is only provided for the least controversial subjects, and it can be argued that those are the subjects where context is less useful let alone necessary. Sometimes it is important to pick a side, since both sides can’t be right in every single argument.

This may be another example of Elon Musk ruining a perfectly functioning feature. While he may have good intentions, his short sighted approach may be doing some harm.


Read next: As Per Elon Musk's Poll He Should Step Down As Twitter Chief But There’s No Successor

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