Insiders say X’s crowdsourced anti-disinformation tool is making the problem worse

On Saturday, the official Israeli account on X posted a picture of what looks like a child’s room with blood on the floor. “This could be your child’s bedroom. No words,” the post says. There is no indication that the image is fake and there is no public evidence of the post. However, in the Community Notes backend, viewed by WIRED, several contributors engage in a conspiracy-fueled back and forth.

“Deoxygenated blood has a dark red hue, so this is staged,” one employee wrote. “A post with a manipulative intent that attempts to elicit an emotional response from the reader by relating words and images in a decontextualized manner,” writes another.

“There is no evidence that this image is staged. A Wikipedia article about blood is not proof that this is staged,” another employee wrote.

“There is no evidence that this photo is from the October 7 attacks,” another claimed.

This type of exchange raises questions about how X approves contributors to the program, but this, as well as the exact factors considered before approving each note, remain unknown. X’s Benarroch did not respond to questions about contributor selection.

According to all the contributors WIRED spoke to, none of those approved for the system receive any training, and the only restriction initially placed on contributors is that they are unable to write new notes until they have previously evaluated a number of other notes. One contributor claims that this approval process can take less than six hours.

In order for notes to be publicly attached to a post, they must be approved as “helpful” by a certain number of contributors, although it’s unclear how many. X describes “helpful” notes as those that receive “enough contributors from different perspectives.” Benarroch did not say how X assesses a user’s political leanings. However, at least previously, the system used a technology called Bridge-based ranking to favor notes that receive positive interactions from users who are perceived to represent different viewpoints. Still, at least some Community Notes contributors aren’t sure how this works.

“I don’t see any mechanism for them to find out what perspective people have,” Anna, a former journalist living in the UK who invited X to become a Community Notes contributor, tells WIRED. “Honestly, I can’t imagine how this would work at all, because new topics come up that it would be impossible to rate.” For fear of backlash from other X users, Anna only wanted to be identified by her first name.

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