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YouTube’s community notes feature rips a page out of X’s playbook

The company hopes they’ll add relevant context to videos in a crucial election year.

Google

YouTube is borrowing a page from X (Twitter) and adding a community notes feature ahead of the 2024 US election. The company wants the short viewer-created blurbs to add relevant context to videos, such as pointing out misinformation or old footage passed off as new.

Notes will roll out initially as a pilot program for “a limited number of eligible contributors,” who will receive an invitation via email or Creator Studio. The invited participants will need to have an active YouTube account in good standing.

During the pilot phase, “third-party evaluators” will rate notes’ helpfulness to help train the system. YouTube says it wants to launch notes gradually to test and fine-tune the feature before making it more widely available. Look no further than YouTube’s often toxic video comments to see why that’s necessary.

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Once the feature is calibrated and widely available, you’ll see them under videos “if they’re found to be broadly helpful.” Viewers will be asked to rate notes as “helpful,” “somewhat helpful” or “unhelpful” — and tell them why (for example, it cites good sources or is written clearly).

Note ratings will be determined by a bridging-based algorithm, which looks for connections among disparate groups. For example, if people who have historically rated things differently agree on a particular note’s helpfulness, that one will more likely appear. It sounds like the system could still be abused, especially considering how many online tribes today share an unflinching belief in the same debunked misinformation. But hey, we’ll reserve judgment until we see it in action.

The feature is awfully similar to one that was rolled out initially under the Jack Dorsey era of Twitter and expanded globally after Elon Musk bought the company in 2022. At the time, Musk described the feature as “a gamechanger for improving accuracy on Twitter.” X, as it’s known today, isn’t exactly known for its accuracy, but YouTube apparently saw something worth copying in the crowd-sourced context.

As for when you will see community notes, YouTube says the pilot will launch on mobile in the US first. The company anticipates mistakes during this test phase as it tweaks its algorithms. Everyone else in the US can expect to see notes appear “in the coming weeks and months.”