YouTube copies X’s Community Notes for amateur fact-checking

Google-owned YouTube is starting to test a feature similar to X’s Community Notes, a popular tool that allows users to fact-check and add context to potentially misleading posts.

Elon Musk has done many awful things to Twitter – renamed it X, accepted adult content, and reduced moderation to a bare minimum. Community Notes are great, though – then again, they weren’t even his idea.

Launched in 2021, Community Notes are now everyday features on X, seen by all platform users below misleading posts. When a user proposes a Community Note, others are asked to check the note’s helpfulness, and only then might it be published.

The feature has led to the public debunking of posts by thousands of users, ranging from Russian state-sponsored propaganda peddlers to cryptocurrency scammers. Even Musk himself, who likes Community Notes, has been corrected more than once.

Now, even Google’s YouTube is copying the feature. In a blog post, the company said it began inviting a group of users to start proposing “relevant, timely, and easy-to-understand” notes to videos uploaded by others.

“For example, this could include notes that clarify when a song is meant to be a parody, point out when a new version of a product being reviewed is available, or let viewers know when older footage is mistakenly portrayed as a current event,” said YouTube.

Just like X, the video platform said it will use a special ranking system, known as a “bridging-based algorithm,” to decide which notes deserve to be promoted. Systems like this are designed to prioritize ideas appealing to a broad range of people.

The mechanism has helped X’s Community Notes avoid being taken over by political squabbles. Of course, it’s much cheaper than hiring professional fact-checkers, too.

Crowdsourced fact-checking can be problematic, though, because the notes only appear on a post or a video after it has already reached a wide audience.

Besides, there’s just so much misinformation on social media platforms these days that fact-checking simply cannot keep up. Last year, NewsGuard analyzed 250 X posts advancing misinformation about the Israel-Gaza war and found that just 32% of them were flagged by Community Notes.

The pilot YouTube feature will be available on mobile in the United States and in English to start. It will take several months for the company to decide whether it makes sense to expand the feature.