Special Report

Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers: The Future of Fact-Checking

The Battle Against Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers (full series)
Rise of the Fact-Checking | The Money Behind Fact-Checking
Other Major Players | Pushing Censorship | The Future of Fact-Checking

Elon Musk and the Future of Fact-Checking

Following his acquisition of Twitter (now X), Elon Musk revamped the Twitter fact-checking system from one only ever used to benefit the Left, to one that fact-checks everyone. Amid debates over major changes to the site since Musk took over, it’s widely agreed that “community notes” is the best (and often funniest) new feature.

In mid-2021 Twitter previously rolled out a program called “Birdwatch” (now “community notes”) which it said would be a “community based approach” for fact-checking. On paper, the system would work by allowing users to identify information they believe to be misleading, and then provide additional commentary and sources. That additional commentary would be attached to the tweet to which it was written in response as a sort of “warning label,” and then users can vote on whether the note provides helpful context. If users decide it doesn’t, it will be removed.

It was a novel idea, and if this sort of “wisdom of the crowds” approach to fact-checking were applied without bias, it should lead to the most accurate fact-checking. After all, any attempt at inserting political bias would have to withstand criticism from potentially millions of others who know better. This would also be a perfect way to fact-check fact-checking publications, as their obviously bogus spin would have to face scrutiny for once and would lose its status as the “final say” on truth, at least on one platform. In any world with fact-checkers, the question of “who fact-checks the fact-checkers” will always remain, and this approach answers that question with “everyone.”

There was only one problem: All of the gatekeepers on Twitter at the time were leftists—the exact same people who took the initiative to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 election.

Only after the Musk takeover was the program actually allowed to flourish, and it showed what an equal platform for fact-checking looks like.

Some of the notes are often comical in the ways they slap one in the face with reality—and has even led to communities where people share these notes with one another, such as the “GetNoted” forum on Reddit or the X account “Community Notes Violating People.”[1]

One of the first notes that went “viral” on X occurred when the White House boasted that Social Security would be seeing its largest increase in 10 years and credited Biden for that. A fact check was attached to the tweet, pointing out that the large increase in payouts occurred because the benefits are linked to inflation, and so rose sharply as inflation skyrocketed under Biden.

When Biden boasted of manufacturing job gains “on my watch,” a note was attached pointing out that he was conflating “regaining lost jobs with creation of new jobs that never existed before.”

When Biden pointed to 55 corporations that he said made a combined $40 billion and paid no federal income taxes and claimed that his “Inflation Reduction Act” would end this, a note was attached explaining that his legislation would only lead to 14 of those 55 companies paying more in taxes.

And after Biden tried to claim credit for capping insulin prices at $35 a month, a note was attached pointing out that this is only for people on Medicare and wouldn’t even apply to seniors on private insurance.

For perhaps the first time ever, politicians are having their lies exposed for millions to see. Although this has led some to charge that the forum now suffers from right-wing bias, in fact this is the Left unexpectedly experiencing equal treatment, which feels like discrimination to those who previously received privileged treatment.

One obvious evidence that community notes do not have a right-wing bias: They’re applied equally to Musk.

When Elon Musk tweeted that he was going to get rid of the “Block” feature on the site, a community note reminded him that would put X in violation of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store rules—and so the “Block” feature remains.[2] When Musk inquired about the status of American YouTuber Gonzalo Lira, who is in custody in Ukraine, a community note informed him that Lira allegedly exposed the locations of Western journalists and Ukrainian soldiers to the Russians.[3]

Even something as minor as Musk misquoting the movie Dune suffered a community note.[4]

Perhaps the best use of community notes thus far has been in the Israel-Hamas war, where the fog of war is thick enough that people will try to pass off video game footage, or footage from other wars, as footage from the current conflict.

If there is a bias in community notes, it’s a “reality bias.”

No wonder the Left is terrified of them.

This article was adapted from Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers: How the Left Hijacked and Weaponized the Fact-Checking Industry by Matt Polombo (Libratio Protocol, 2023).[5]

[1] RolandmaddogDeschain, “The best use of community notes so far!,” Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/GetNoted/comments/16vuscd/the_best_use_of_community_notes_so_far/; and community notes violating people [@cnviolations], “Community notes violating people,” Twitter, https://twitter.com/cnviolations.

[2] Keryn Donnelly, “Elon Musk Gets Fact-Checked by Twitter Community Notes After Claiming He Was Removing Vital Feature,” Unilad, August 21, 2023, https://www.unilad.com/technology/news/elon-musk-gets-factchecked-by-twitter-community-notes-135348-20230821.

[3] Sky News, “Elon Musk Fact-Checked on X by His Own System—but Claims It Has Been ‘Gamed by State Actors,’” December 11, 2023, https://news.sky.com/story/elon-musk-fact-checked-on-x-by-his-own-system-but-claims-it-has-been-gamed-by-state-actors-13028020.

[4] ScreenTime [@screentime]. (2022,). “Twitter has fact-checked Elon Musk after he misquoted #Dune,” [Tweet]. Twitter, November 22, 2022, 1:44 a.m., https://twitter.com/screentime/status/1594944813714939904.

[5] Matt Palumbo, “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers: How the Left Hijacked and Weaponized the Fact-Checking Industry,” Libratio Protocol, July 18, 2023.

Matt Palumbo

Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros (2021), Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New York…
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