Research shows that X (formerly Twitter) community notes provide accurate, credible responses to vaccine misinformation

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A new study published in JAMA led by John W. Ayers, Ph.D., of the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego, finds that X’s Community Notes, a crowdsourced approach to tackling misinformation, spreads false health information in popular posts about COVID-19 vaccines counters with accurate, credible responses. Credit: Screenshot by Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego

As the spread of misinformation continues to pose a major challenge on social media platforms, a beacon of hope emerges from research from the University of California San Diego.

A new study published in JAMA led by John W. Ayers, Ph.D., of the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego, finds that X’s Community Notes, a crowdsourced approach to tackling misinformation, has helped false health information in popular posts about COVID -19 vaccines with accurate, credible responses. The article is titled “Features of X’s (Twitter) Community Notes Addressing Misinformation About the COVID-19 Vaccine.”

“Since the World Health Organization declared an ‘infodemic’ of disinformation, there have been surprisingly few successes to celebrate,” said Ayers, vice chief of innovation in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. and deputy director of informatics at the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, in addition to being a scientist at the Qualcomm Institute.

“X’s Community Notes have emerged as an innovative solution, providing accurate and credible health information.”

Understanding the countermeasures against disinformation on social media

Before the introduction of Community Notes, social media companies used a variety of tactics to tackle misinformation, including censorship, shadowbanning (muting a user or their content on a platform without informing them), and adding blanket warning labels to problematic content .

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“However, social media companies are unwilling to reveal details about the inner workings of their anti-disinformation efforts, or to share the necessary data to study their usefulness,” said Mathew Allen, a co-author of the study and a medical student at the UC San Diego.

X was introduced at the end of 2022 Community Notes– a paradigm shift in the fight against disinformation. This new approach allows volunteer, independent, anonymous, and ideologically diverse contributors to identify misinformation posts and correct misinformation by adding informative “annotations” to suspicious posts. The process is controlled by the public, rather than by the decision makers within the company.

“Because Community Notes is a unique, open source countermeasure against disinformation, it can be studied and improved using the scientific method,” Allen said.

Evaluation of X’s community notes

The research team obtained all notes mentioning terms related to vaccines or COVID, along with associated posts created during the first year of the Community Notes program, from December 12, 2022 through December 12, 2023. From the Of 45,783 notes, 657 are about COVID-19. 19 vaccination, with the monthly number of notes increasing from 22 to 186 during the study.

Research shows that X (formerly Twitter) community notes provide accurate, credible responses to vaccine misinformation

A newly published study shows that X’s Community Notes, a crowdsourced approach to tackling misinformation, helped counter false health information in popular posts about COVID-19 vaccines with accurate, credible responses. Credit: Screenshot courtesy of John Ayers, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego

A team of reviewers, working with an infectious disease physician and a virologist, assessed the subject matter, accuracy, and source credibility of randomly collected notes.

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Of the notes examined, 51% addressed side effects attributed to the COVID-19 vaccination; 37%, conspiracy theories; 7%, vaccine recommendations; and 5% vaccine effectiveness.

In terms of accuracy, 97.5% of the banknotes were completely accurate; 2% are partially accurate, meaning they address scientifically debated conclusions; and 0.5%, inaccurate. In terms of sources, 49% of notes cited highly credible sources (such as primary data sources, such as peer-reviewed studies); 44%, moderately credible sources (such as major news media or fact-checkers); and 7%, sources with low credibility (such as blogs or tabloids).

“Notes typically addressed obvious misinformation and provided corrections from credible sources,” said Nimit Desai, co-author of the study and a medical student at UC San Diego. “It is remarkable to witness the online community’s skill in steering conversations towards accurate and high-quality evidence, when provided with the right tools.”

The sample of notes examined was attached to posts that received an average of 1,064,981 views, which extrapolated to between 500 million and 1 billion views for all noted posts about the COVID-19 vaccination.

“Our research shifts the focus from talking about misinformation to taking action, providing practical insights into social media strategies that protect public health,” said Mark Dredze, Ph.D., the John C Malone Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and study co-author.

“While we couldn’t examine how these notes directly influenced people’s beliefs or actions, the characteristics we analyzed have been consistently shown to predict the effectiveness of a message.”

Learn from and improve X’s community notes

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf recently argued that vaccination is nearing a dangerous tipping point due to misinformation on social media.

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“A viable way for the public health community to combat this threat is to actively engage in social media-based interventions, such as Community Notes,” said physician-scientist and study co-author Davey Smith, MD, chief of the department Infectious. Disease and Global Public Health and professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, co-director of the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UC San Diego, and immunologist at UC San Diego Health.

“While only a fraction of vaccine misinformation posts are currently being addressed, the ample room for expansion suggests significant opportunity to increase the impact of Community Notes.”

Eric Leas, Ph.D., co-author of the study, assistant professor at UC San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science and Qualcomm Institute affiliate, highlighted the transformative role of Community Notes in the fight against disinformation .

“Rather than censor misleading content, Community Notes fosters a learning environment where users can gather insights from corrections to misinformation to prevent similar misunderstandings in the future. By providing context and credible sources alongside controversial posts, the platform allows users to distinguish fact from fiction, a skill they will find useful as they navigate through all the claims.”

Ayers concluded: “Other social media platforms should embrace transparency by open-sourcing their countermeasures to disinformation. This step is critical to enabling independent scientific research, which will increase public trust in the most impactful strategies and increase their adoption enlarge.”

More information:
Features of X (Twitter) community notes on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, JAMA (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2024.4800

Presented by the University of California – San Diego


Quote: Study shows X (formerly Twitter) community notes provide accurate, credible answers to vaccine misinformation (2024, April 24), retrieved April 28, 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-04- twitter-community-accurate-credible-vaccin.html

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