Saturday, June 22, 2024

X’s Community Notes fact-checking was pointless exercise during India’s elections – Here’s why – Technology News

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As India headed into its once-in-five-year Lok Sabha polls in April, Elon Musk-owned X launched its crowd-sourced fact-checking programme — Community Notes — in the nation, where misinformation and fake news are a major menace overall, but more so during the elections. And in the fast-paced, highly divisive, and polarised event that has been the general elections, X’s Community Notes has largely been unable to keep up.

Notably, the feature allows users to flag misleading posts and add context, citing studies and media reports, and if enough contributors agree with a particular viewpoint, the note is visible for everyone to see. While the feature works well otherwise, such as a recent study implied that it is working — at least for scientific issues, the same doesn’t seem to be the case with the elections, where contributors appear to be having a tough time discerning opinion, misinformation, and facts. For example, when PM Narendra Modi addressed an election rally in Rajasthan’s Banswara in late April, the speech was derided as the most communal and divisive, with some terming it as hate speech. At the rally, Modi said, “Earlier, when their (Congress) government was in power, they had stated that Muslims have the first right to the country’s assets. This implies to whom will this property be distributed? It will be distributed among those who have more children. It will be distributed to the infiltrators.”

“This ‘urban Naxal’ mindset, mothers and sisters, will not even leave your ‘mangalsutra’, ” he asserted. As several X handles shared the video, terming it “a direct attack against Muslims of India,” the Community Notes contributors mostly bickered among themselves, and a lack of consensus meant that the feature couldn’t attain what it is designed for, which is to fact-check (mis)information.

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When journalist Rana Ayyub shared the video calling it Modi’s “most dangerous speech,” the Community Notes contributors couldn’t agree on either what was stated in the Congress’ manifesto, or what former PM Manmohan Singh implied in his 2006 speech where he said, “We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development.”

In another example, when an X handle that goes by the name Mr Sinha (Modi’s family) shared a picture of Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul’s hand who showed their inked hands following casting their votes, what caught greater attention was the painting behind them. “Janeudhari Brahmin” Rahul Gandhi has Jesus’s picture in his room…. No picture of Hindu gods in the same room..Nice!!!!” Mr Sinha (Modi’s family) wrote. The post was flagged for claiming the painting of Madonna Oriflamma to be that of Jesus, however, not enough of and clear consensus, and lack of enough rating, meant the note wasn’t visible for everyone to see. While contributors agreed the picture was, in fact, that of Madonna, some claimed that she, in turn, is a representation of Mary, the mother of Jesus; and how “Hindus respect all faiths and can have pictures of Jesus in their room.”

While a lack of consensus is one issue, a lack of notes on several posts is another one. In a cheap fake video of Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress chief appeared saying that his party would distribute the wealth of the Hindus to minority Muslims. Having been widely shared on X, while the claim was debunked by several fact-checking platforms, it doesn’t carry any note when shared by multiple handles. According to Bloomberg News, while the Community Notes feature has shown to be effective in fact-checking certain topics, such as scientific or medical information, it has struggled with the more contentious ones. Also, consumers have a strong desire for “tools to verify the trustworthiness of digital content and the urgent need for proactive measures to address misinformation’s potential impact on election integrity globally,” as highlighted in Adobe’s inaugural Future of Trust Study. Not only that, concerns over misinformation were also found to be impacting consumer’s use of social media platforms with several users saying they have either stopped or minimised their use of certain social media platforms over misinformation, the Adobe study, conducted in the US, UK, France, and Germany, further highlighted. However, X isn’t stopping just yet and could bring Community Notes to news and other platforms, CEO Linda Yaccarino said recently. Yaccarino reportedly said the system can “force out bias” and that more than 500,000 volunteers were contributing to the system.

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