John W. Ayers

UCSD Study Finds X’s Community Notes Fosters Learning Environment Rather Than Censorship Model Interview with:
John W. AyersJohn W. Ayers, PhD MA
Vice Chief of Innovation | Assoc. Professor
Div. Infectious Disease & Global Public Health
University of California San Diego

Since the World Health Organization declared an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation, there have been surprisingly few achievements to celebrate. X’s Community Notes have emerged as an innovative strategy to address misinformation as reported in the latest issue of JAMA.

Before the inception of Community Notes, social media companies employed various tactics to tackle misinformation, including censoring, shadowbanning (muting a user or their content on a platform without informing them), and adding generic warning labels to problematic content. However, these efforts were typically undisclosed meaning their effectiveness could not be studied.

In late 2022, X introduced Community Notes. This novel approach empowers volunteer, independent, anonymous, and ideologically diverse contributors to identify posts containing misinformation and to rectify misinformation by appending informative “notes” to suspect posts. The process is controlled by the public, instead of decision-makers at the company. Most importantly the system is open-sourced so it can be studied by external scientists.

The research team obtained all notes related to COVID vaccines along with their corresponding posts made during the first year of the Community Notes program. A team of evaluators, working with an infectious disease physician and virologist, assessed the subject, accuracy, and source credibility of randomly sampled notes. Of the notes examined, 51% addressed adverse events attributed to COVID-19 vaccination, while 37% addressed conspiracy theories. In terms of accuracy, 97.5% of notes were entirely accurate, while 2% were partially accurate, addressing scientifically debated conclusions. In terms of sources, 49% cited highly credible sources, 44% moderately credible sources, and 7% low credibility sources. The sample of notes studied was attached to posts that averaged 1,064,981 views, extrapolating to between 500 million and 1 billion views for all COVID-19 vaccination-related posts that were noted.
While only a fraction of vaccine misinformation posts are currently addressed, the potential for Community Notes to address vaccine misinformation and amplify public health is transformational. The online community’s adeptness in steering conversations towards accurate and high-quality evidence when provided with the right tools was remarkable, mirroring expert judgements.
Rather than censoring misleading content, Community Notes fosters a learning environment where users can glean insights from corrections to misinformation to prevent similar misunderstandings in the future. By providing context and credible sources alongside contentious posts, the platform empowers users to discern fact from fiction, a skill they will find useful as they navigate all claims.
Transparency and open-sourcing of misinformation countermeasures by other social media platforms are crucial for enabling independent scientific scrutiny and enhancing public trust in these efforts. By sharing data the scientific method can evaluate and enhance all misinformation countermeasures.


Allen MRDesai NNamazi A, et al. Characteristics of X (Formerly Twitter) Community Notes Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation. JAMA. Published online April 24, 2024. doi:10.1001/jama.2024.4800

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Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD