Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has offered an analysis of the Community Notes tool from X — formerly Twitter — comparing the feature to an example of “crypto values” on social media.
In an Aug. 16 post on his personal website, Buterin said that given X’s Community Notes were shown or not shown based “entirely by an open source algorithm,” the platform tool was “the closest thing to an instantiation of ‘crypto values’ that we have seen in the mainstream world.” Community Notes, a Twitter feature launched in the U.S. as Birdwatch in October 2022 — prior to Elon Musk’s purchase of the firm — was aimed at allowing contributors to rate tweets as “helpful” and offer context.
“It’s not perfect,” said Buterin on the algorithm behind the feature. “But it’s surprisingly close to satisfying the ideal of credible neutrality, all while being impressively useful, even under contentious conditions, at the same time.”
The Ethereum co-founder provided a detailed analysis of the Community Notes algorithm, including it not “naively taking an average score from people’s votes” to determine how helpful a comment may be to users, as well as detecting major political divides on content. The feature has allowed additional context for seemingly misleading photos used as previews for stories and COVID-19 misinformation.
“I would say that the ‘theorycel aesthetic’ side of crypto [referencing this tweet] is necessary precisely to distinguish protocols that are actually trustless from janky constructions that look fine and seem to work well but under the hood require trusting a few centralized actors – or worse, actually end up being outright scams,” said Buterin.
“It’s the closest that very-large-scale applications are going to get within the next couple of years, and we can see that it provides a lot of value already.”
Buterin went as far as to suggest that Musk may have ordered people working on the platform to remove certain Community Notes that may have been against his business interests, such as criticizing China’s government. Despite the Ethereum co-founder’s suggestion and criticism of “highly contentious actions” at Twitter following Musk’s takeover, the X CEO called the post a “great analysis.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 16, 2023
Musk, who described himself as a “free speech absolutist” prior to his takeover of Twitter in October 2022, may have been behind adding a five-second delay for links to news organizations, including The New York Times, and Facebook, according to a Washington Post report. Buterin’s analysis came as Musk was engaged in an online squabble with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the two billionaires planning a mixed martial arts fight at some point in the future.