Twitter updated its Community Notes feature (formerly known as Birdwatch) on Friday, according to a set of posts from a company Twitter account. With the update, Community Notes are now, once again, subject to “scoring,” in which site users can vote on whether or not a note is useful. Additionally, an algorithm change will supposedly ensure “more low quality notes get identified,” and restrict users who frequently contribute “low quality” notes, tweeted the company.
So in summary: there is now a crowd-sourced verification tool for Twitter’s crowd-sourced verification tool. The site’s VP of Product, Keith Coleman, followed up to clarify in his own post that site users would be responsible for determining a note’s quality, not Twitter itself.
It seems likely the algorithm change announcement is part of a bid to demonstrate the platform’s moderation ability and trustworthiness, amid weeks of chaos brought on by Elon Musk’s acquisition. Since the billionaire bought the company and hollowed out its workforce, many advertisers have paused their spending on the platform—holding out for indication’s of the site’s direction.
Advertisers generally don’t want their brands associated with racial slurs, political disinformation, neo-Nazis, etc... And Musk’s vision of an unbridled “free speech” platform has scared off would-be ad partners. One report from earlier this month indicated that half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have fled since Musk took over, despite the Tesla CEO’s assurances that he wouldn’t make the site into a “hellscape.”
In an apparent attempt to illustrate the alleged value of the updated Community Notes feature, Musk himself took to the site to post some fake news. The social media CEO posted a doctored headline attributed to CNN, and then replied “@CommunityNotes FTW!” when a community note appeared on his post indicating the screencap wasn’t real.
Since Musk officially started his reign at Twitter at the end of October, the platform’s moderation has been a key concern. Right away, the site’s former content moderation team was unable to do their jobs, and then many of those jobs were scrapped in mass layoffs. Though Musk might see moderation as counter to “freedom,” it’s likely central to keeping the social media site useable, attractive to its core user-ship, and profitable. Plus, even when it had a full content moderation staff, the platform still struggled to manage abuse and political disinformation.
Twitter initially launched Community Notes/Birdwatch to combat such difficulties—not necessarily to fully replace other aspects of the site’s moderation. Yet, currently, it’s unclear how well other layers of Twitter’s moderation are working. The site failed to flag and remove videos of the Christchurch mosque shooting on Sunday, indicating large gaps in current processes.