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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 16: A Community Notes Conundrum

The Media Research Center is of two minds when it comes to Twitter's Community Notes fact-checking function: great when applied to liberals but "censorship" when applied to conservatives. PLUS: The MRC hates Twitter's new Musk-chosen CEO.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/29/2023

The Media Research Center has generally approved of Twitter's "Community Notes" feature, which allows people to append fact-checks to tweets -- especially when non-conservatives get fact-checked. In April, for example, Curtis Houck went on Fox News to praise how Community Notes were among tools right-wingers used to "push[] back on the insane notion 'that George Soros has nothing to do with the Alvin Bragg campaign.'" Houck gushed in a May 2 post:

Bob Hoge with our friends at RedState had a hilarious piece Tuesday pulling together the latest saga and kid-in-a-grocery-store meltdown MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan pitched last week after he was roundly condemned and fact-checked for one insane claim after another about crime and, of course, racism.

At the heart of it, Hoge noted that Hasan has objected Twitter’s Community Notes feature, which allows users to fact-check false claims, seeing more play under Elon Musk’s ownership and he was “getting awfully sick of” it.

Two days later, Houck cheered that "Twitter’s Community Notes sprang into action on AOC’s colleague Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as she tweeted video of [Jordan] Neely dressed like Jackson on a subway. Joseph Vazquez hyped Community Notes further in a May 18 post:

NBC News used deceptive imagery in an apparent attempt to gloss over an outrageous sexually explicit book being pushed on children. Twitter’s Community Notes participants were having none of it.

NBC News tweeted out its story of how “[a]n Illinois teacher offered her middle schoolers a bestselling LGBTQ-themed book. Parents filed a police report over her book choice.” But the featured photo for the article included the teacher in question holding up a book titled: “Igniting Social Action in the ELA Classroom: Inquiry as Disruption.”

Except, that wasn’t the book parents reportedly complained about, as Community Notes exposed.

But when that exact same tool was used by liberals to counter right-wing falsehoods and misinformation, it suddenly became a terrible thing. David Marcus complained in a June 2 post:

Musk’s most significant change to content moderation policies at Twitter has been “Community Notes,” a crowdsourced alternative to professional fact-checking, and while some conservatives appear to like the results better, the warning labels are still a form of censorship, albeit by a different name.

To the extent we can understand the Byzantine practices at Twitter, it goes something like this: Users see a tweet they disagree with, they create a note either fact-checking, or worse adding context to the tweet. These notes are voted on by other users, and eventually, Twitter somehow decides what warnings appear below the offending tweets.

While this is more democratic than traditional fact checks, it still falls into many of the same epistemological traps that all efforts to censor do eventually. Let’s start with a fundamental problem: crowdsourcing is no guarantee of truth.


But the problems run much deeper. The most insidious tool in the fact-checker’s quiver is the phrase “Missing Important Context,” which is employed when a statement is true but the people in authority deem it misleading because it doesn’t include counter arguments that they prefer.

Let’s be completely clear, deciding what “missing context” is “important” is a wholly subjective enterprise, and when tweets are subjectively given warning labels, that is absolutely a form of censorship.

Further, the Community Notes do not appear to operate independent of leadership at Twitter, with however many thousands (again we just don’t know the details) of suggested notes, it is eventually Twitter itself — whether through human decision-making or an algorithm — that decides what gets the censorship treatment.


The obvious question here is why these warning labels are needed at all, given that the platform already has a very simple way for the community of users to challenge the subject matter of a tweet: more tweets.

Honestly, there is no more popular sport on Twitter than users finding ridiculous statements by high profile accounts and spending hours publicly dragging the offender on the platform. Is there some reason this is not sufficient?

In fact, this combat bad speech with more speech approach is what most conservatives called for prior to Musk taking over. Good will towards the eccentric billionaire has seemed to make many on the right give Musk’s Community Notes the benefit of the doubt. This is a mistake.

Ultimately, the problem here is that “content moderation,” of which Community Notes is a type, is inherently an Orwellian business that winds up meaning censorship. Placing official warning labels on true statements is censorship whether you use a euphemism for it or not.


For now, some conservatives are celebrating Community Notes, others cutting Musk some slack on it, but at the end of the day, censorship is censorship, whether you like the results or not.

Twitter should take its thumb off the scale of discourse by abandoning Community Notes and trust the users to police themselves organically without making some more equal than others with special privileges. That, and only that, will truly be free speech.

When a fellow right-winger faced fact-checking via Community Notes, Catherine Salgado ran to their defense in a June 14 post:

Twitter’s Community Notes slapped a “Context” warning label on an actual photograph of a miscarried unborn baby, trying unscientifically and inaccurately to claim that the depicted embryo was not seven weeks old.

When pro-life organization Live Action tweeted out photos and an article about 7- and 8-week-old unborn babies, with the back stories of the two tiny humans (Riley and Annabelle), Twitter’s Community Notes users attempted to discredit the photos.

Live Action President and Founder Lila Rose stating in a tweet, “Twitter posts a blatantly false ‘correction’ on our tweet showing a 7-week-old embryo from fertilization, who had been miscarried. What’s going on, @elonmusk?” The Community Notes “context,” shown in Rose’s screenshot, appears to have been removed since.

“This just goes to show the problem with so-called fact-checks, and ultimately the problem with Twitter’s Community Notes,” MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris said. “As columnist David Marcus pointed out in a recent piece, ‘“Community Notes” are a crowdsourced alternative to professional fact-checking, and while some conservatives appear to like the results better, the warning labels are still a form of censorship, albeit by a different name.’ Marcus is absolutely right.”

The "context" that was added was the fact that the embryo, as Salgado conceded, was the size of a blueberry -- the size of a coffee bean in the original Community Notes language -- important context when when you're representing an image as an "unborn baby" while providing no sense of scale. Salgado did not explain why Rose and Live Action chose to censor this relevant information in their original post.

The Community Notes freakout continued with a Nov. 3 post by Salgado declaring Twitter demonetizing posts with Community Notes debunking them to be among the worst "censorship" of October:

X owner Elon Musk announced on Oct. 29: “Making a slight change to creator monetization: Any posts that are corrected by @CommunityNotes become ineligible for revenue share. The idea is to maximize the incentive for accuracy over sensationalism.” While Community Notes can at times add helpful information to posts that are inaccurate, Community Note fact checks have also asserted inaccurate or incomplete information. In addition to the initial censorship that Community Notes created, Musk’s latest announcement adds a new form of financial censorship on X.

Yes, Salgado bizarrely thinks fact-checking is "censorship."

Thumbs down on new Twitter CEO

Twitter's newly appointed CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has indisputable right-wing bona fides: President Trump appointed her to serve on a White House commission, and she follows numerous right-wing and far-right Twitter accounts. But that's not far-right enough for the MRC. Joseph Vazquez devoted a May 15 post to being mad that Yaccarino once argued in favor of content moderation on Twitter -- which he insists on framing as "censorship" without explaining why hate and misinformation must be allowed to spread unchecked:

Twitter owner Elon Musk’s newly appointed World Economic Forum-tied CEO for the platform recently tried to corner him into committing to reinstalling some of the same Orwellian censorship structures of the old regime. Gee, what a shocker (sarcasm).

Then-NBCUniversal Chair of Global Advertising and Partnerships Linda Yaccarino pressed Musk during an interview at the 2023 MMA Global POSSIBLE Miami Event on whether he would pledge to reinstate an “influence council” akin to the old censorship-obsessed regime. “So Twitter 1.0 had a very well-populated, much loved influence council,” Yaccarino mourned. She propped the “council” up as a supposedly necessary “recurring feedback loop from your key stakeholders — your advertisers — where they had recurring access or would have recurring access to you.”

The kind of so-called “influence” Yaccarino pushed involved giving advertisers some control over Twitter’s “product development, ad safety” and — of course — “content moderation,” which is a cute euphemism for censorship.

Musk didn’t take the bait and deflected Yaccarino’s attempts to corner him. “It’s totally cool to say that you want to have your advertising appear in certain places in Twitter and not in other places. But it is not cool to try to say what Twitter will do.” Musk was adamant that if his stance meant “losing advertising dollars, we lose it. But freedom of speech is paramount.” Musk also asserted that a so-called influence council would make him “wary of creating a backlash among the public because the public thinks that their views are being determined by” elitists.

But this begs the question in retrospect: why would Musk appoint a clearly liberal individual to lead a platform that is apparently not nearly as committed to protecting free speech? Yaccarino chairs the Taskforce on Future of Work and sits on the Media, Entertainment and Culture Industry Governors Steering Committee at the globalist WEF. WEF has actively promoted asinine views pushing Big Tech censorship.

Vazquez didn't mention that his definition of "free speech" on Twitter that must be allowed to spread unchecked apparently includes hate speech -- after all, it's indisputable that anti-Semitism has spiked on Twitter since Musk took over. As a result of this, advertisers are fleeing the platform; Twitter ad revenue dropped by more than half since last year -- after all, no advertisers wants their ad to be posted next to a hate-filled tweet. (One might call it a case of "go anti-woke, go broke.") Meanwhile, Yaccarino has done the requisite sucking up to Musk that presumably helped her get the job. Also, Musk has made a mess of Twitter's finances in other ways, refusing to pay bills for rent, cloud services and other things, and Yaccarino is trying to fix that.

If Twitter continues to be overrun by hate speech, it will scare users away who want nothing to do with that. Yaccarino appears to understand that, but Musk and Vazquez do not. Yaccarino wants to save the company; Musk and Vazquez want to own the libs.

The MRC continued to complain about Community Notes. Heather Moon was outraged that Community Notes was used to fact-check Musk in an Aug. 18 post, laughably headlined "Did Musk Just Get Censored on His Own Platform?":

In a bold twist, Twitter’s Community Notes censored Elon Musk and had the gall to tell him what he can and cannot do with his own platform.

Community Notes, the crowdsourced fact-checking system for X (formerly known as Twitter) that has been characterized as “censorship by a different name,” took aim at owner Musk’s announcement that he will soon remove X’s block feature. The Note attached to his post, however, claimed that he is forbidden from making such a change.

Proving that no one using X is immune from censorship, the platform applied a Community Note to one of Musk’s own posts.

In his announcement today Musk posted what immediately proved to be one of the most controversial moves he has made since taking over the company. “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature,’ except for DMs,” he posted.

The Community Notes team quickly came up with a Note rebuking the latest potential change that now appears below Musk’s post. The Note reads: “Elon Musk cannot do this. The feature to block someone on the site is REQUIRED as a social media app to be allowed on the App Store and the Google Play store.” It also provides links to the app guidelines for both the Apple App Store and the Google Playstore as proof.

Moon didn't mention Musk's complete hypocrisy on the issue; after getting into an argument with right-wing actor James Woods via Twitter over removing the block feature, Musk blocked Woods. Moon remained committed to the fact-checking-is-censorship narrative by invoking the MRC's made-up and meaningless "secondhand censorship" metric:

Musk has made many changes to X since he purchased it. One of the more controversial changes was a global rollout of what is known as Community Notes in December of 2022. MRC Free Speech America’s CensorTrack recently reported that this new form of censorship caused Secondhand Censorship to soar in the second quarter of 2023.

Yes, the MRC still absurdly thinks fact-checking is "censorship."

PR work continues

Despite all the fretting over Community Notes, the MRC continued to be a servile stenographer and PR office for Musk. As such, MRC readers were never informed about this bad news:

  • Musk threatened to censor users who use the word "cisgender," inexplicably insisting that it's a "slur."
  • He tried to make Twitter less accessible by introducing new limits on tweet views for anyone who won't pay the multi-billionaire $8 a month, and many users had problems accessing Twitter at all.
  • Twitter's attempt to mimic TikTok's "swipe up" feature is showing viewers graphic and conspiracy-theory-laden videos featuring gun violence, police brutality, physical altercations and vaccine misinformation.

While the MRC was playing censor on behalf of Musk, it made sure to continue its Musk-fluffing. A June 19 post by Gabriela Pariseau hyped an interview he did with an obscure podcaster in which he did his usual pontifications about "free speech." We suspect the podcaster lobbed only easy softballs as Musk. A June 28 tweet on the NewsBusters Twitter account obsequiously wished Musk a happy birthday.

Peter Kotara insisted that anti-Semitism and other hate on Twitter is not hate speech but merely "so-called hate speech" in a June 28 post raging that people want Musk to do something about it, starting with issuing a personal attack on the head of the Anti-Defamation League:

On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, ADL Vice President Yael Eisenstat joined MSNBC hosts Willie Geist and Jonathan Lemire to demand social media companies tighten the noose of political censorship online, cry about Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and even call for the government to become involved in online censorship.

Eisenstat, a far left censorship proponent, appeared on the segment to push forward the thesis that so-called “hate speech” has been increasing online, and that social media companies needed to censor it, as well as that the government needed to pass legislation forcing them crack down on it if they won’t do so on their own.


So, who is Yael Eisenstat? Apart from being the Vice President of the ADL, a partisan organization dedicated to demonizing right-wingers and labeling them “anti-semites” based solely on their opposition to woke ideology, she was a former Facebook employee, CIA analyst, and National Security Adviser to then Vice President Joe Biden.

According to Influence Watch, Eisenstat “argued that speech she considers to be misinformation or hateful that does not violate any laws should still be subjected to censorship.” Here Eisenstat showed her true malevolent nature, that she wished to destroy any political speech she disagreed with by classifying it as “hate speech”.

Kotara didn't explain why anti-Semitism shouldn't be considered hate speech, nor did he cite any actual examples of Eisenstat "destroy any political speech she disagreed with by classifying it as 'hate speech'." He concluded by huffing:

This MSNBC propaganda segment highlighted the ever-expanding attempts by the left to use “hate speech” to silence dissent and centralize power under themselves both through governmental legislation and private corporations. Their real enemy was never hate; it was the First Amendment.

Again, Kotara didn't explain why online hate should and must be allowed to spread unchecked.

Tim Graham used a July 8 post to complain that the Washington Post got an apparently fake account banned of an apparently nonexistent person who spouted views presented as liberal, insisting the account was really brilliant satire:

Among the Twitter bot accounts that the liberal media hate most are the fake liberal bots who make liberals look like obnoxious idiots -- or who are a little too clumsy and inartful, and make liberals think it must be a conservative plot. It's like a version of banning The Babylon Bee because its satire hits too close to home.

Consider the case of "Erica Marsh," who tripped the liberal alarms with a June 29 tweet after the Supreme Court upended race-based admissions at Harvard. “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a direct attack on Black people. No Black person will be able to succeed in a merit-based system which is exactly why affirmative-action based programs were needed."

As Legal Insurrection noted, this caused a wave of outrage, particularly among black conservatives like Candace Owens, Bo Snerdley, Leo Terrell and others.

On July 4, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post reported their inquiries to Twitter caused the "Erica Marsh" account to be suspended after her Supreme Court tweet was viewed more than 27 million times.


Harwell noted what he and the other liberals -- sorry, the "misinformation experts" were thinking: "For months, Marsh’s account had raised suspicions among online misinformation experts due to her lack of a real-world footprint and her devotion to attention-grabbing viewpoints one called “cartoonishly liberal.” For example, Harwell noted, last month she said she still wears “2 masks whenever I go out and support Ukraine.”

Most Twitter users -- at least the ones outside the censorious left -- find parody accounts amusing, but you want to know what is a parody account and what's not. You might wonder if @AOC is a parody, and not the AOC parody accounts. When Harwell turned back to his expert on "rage" and Twitter, did he consider that the left-wing side is also vulnerable to rage bait?

Funny, we don't recall Graham ever liking a tweet from The Onion. And Graham offered no examples of right-wing rage-bait to which liberals have been "vulnerable."

Billionaire 'victim'

Despite his being a multibillionaire, the Media Research Center must always portray Elon Musk as a victim because he advances right-wing narratives. Catherine Salgado did this again in a July 13 post:

Is the Federal Trade Commission retaliating against Elon Musk following his pledge to support free speech on Twitter?

During a July 13 hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) slammed the Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan for her apparent “harassment” and “shakedown” against Twitter after Elon Musk purchased the platform and tried to break up its censorship regime. According to Jordan, Kahn tried to rig a disfavorable audit of Twitter's Trust and Safety operations conducted by private assessor Ernst and Young. Jordan called the situation “even worse than we could have imagined.”

Jordan noted that “The is common practice pursuant to the consent order, required Twitter to hire an independent assessor,” whose role is supposed to be objective. Instead, the FTC tried to pressure assessor Ernst and Young into a negative report regardless of reality, Jordan explained.

MRC Vice President Dan Schneider chimed in to criticize Khan’s alleged conduct. “As the FTC Inspector General and others have shown, Lina Khan has corrupted that agency and turned it into a nuclear-armed guided missile against the Biden administration’s political opponents,” Schneider said. “She has engaged in an extortion scheme against the independent auditor and has cooked up the evidence against Twitter to punish Elon Musk for not adhering to a left-wing agenda. She should be added to the growing list of Biden officials who should be impeached.”
But Salgado and Schneider, as well as Jordan, censored the full story. As a fair and balanced news outlet reported, the FTC is trying to hold Twitter to account for agreements made with the government by the pre-Musk ownership over the company's data security practices -- obligations that didn't stop because Musk bought the company. The private assessor, Ernst & Young, reported that it had trouble confirming compliance because Musk continually fired people put in charge of it, Twitter refused to allow on-site visits, and Twitter owes Ernst & Young $500,000 that it has refused to pay. Salgado and Schneider also failed to mention that Jordan's hectoring of Khan was highly criticized as attempting to advance right-wing narratives instead of genuinely seeking information from her.

Salgado defended Musk again in a July 17 post complaining that a magazine dared to criticize how he runs Twitter:

Foreign Policy magazine screeched Saturday that Twitter’s recent pro-free speech changes made the platform “inimical to democracy.” The outlet alleged, without specific evidence, that disinformation and “extremist” content have sharply increased on the platform under Musk’s ownership in an article headlined: “Elon Musk’s Twitter Is Becoming a Sewer of Disinformation.”

It self-righteously lectured about restrictions removed from dictatorships’ state-sponsored content. The outlet’s primary complaint about Twitter, however, simply masked fury at free speech for those with whom it disagrees.

It particularly objected to the disintegration of Twitter’s previous blue check aristocracy through Musk’s making verification attainable by all users.

Salgado went on to lash out at another Twitter critic the magazine cited:

“[H]ate and harassment” on Twitter have increased, Foreign Policy claimed. But it cited the Washington- and London-based radical leftist, anti-free speech group The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

The group found, according to Foreign Policy, that “Twitter failed to act on 99 percent of tweets by Twitter Blue subscribers reported to Twitter the [sic] using the platform’s own tools for flagging hateful conduct.” The activist organization, however, is more of a constant censorship campaign than a credible research organization. MRC President and Founder Brent Bozell called CCDH “digital brownshirts.”

Salgado didn't explain why CCDH deserves to be smeared as Nazis for pointing out hate on Twitter (which, despite her insisting that doing so is not "credible research," she makes no effort to disprove).

Salgado had to concede that "The outlet noted accurately that Twitter removed state-affiliated labels from state propaganda sources connected to authoritarian governments in China, Iran, and Russia, and that these accounts had restrictions removed." But she didn't mention that this was fallout from Musk's failed own-the-libs gotcha in which he arbitrarily labeled NPR's Twitter account as "state-affiliated media" before amending it to "government funded media" -- and then, after NPR quit using Twitter rather than be subject to Musk's whims, dropped the label entirely, but for obvious propaganda outlets from other foreign governments as well as NPR.

Salgado then tried to play whataboutism over Musk playing footsie with China:

While Foreign Policy brought up legitimate concerns such as Musk’s endorsement of China taking over the independent nation of Taiwan, it also exaggerated the influence of supposed Russian “disinformation.” The Twitter Files previously revealed that Americans were wrongly censored under the former overly zealous anti-Russian censorship effort.

Indeed, Foreign Policy seemed to have contradictory views. On the one hand, it condemned Musk for rejecting European Union regulations dangerous to free speech, while noting Musk’s history of admiring statements about the Chinese Communist Party. The outlet appears simply to pick and choose which censorship laws it demands Musk should follow.

Salgado failed to mention her employer's own contradictory views on the subject. It had previously attacked Musk for cozying up to China, but forgot all that when he became interested in Twitter. Also note that Salgado would not criticize Musk's love for China, even as her employer continually attacks Twitter rival TikTok for allegedly being too close to the CCP. Regarding her claim that "Americans were wrongly censored under the former overly zealous anti-Russian censorship effort," she linked to a post that, as ConWebWatch has noted, was largely a rehash of previously discredited attacks on a group called Hamilton 68, which pointed out that it wasn't exclusive tracking Russian bots in the effort and that it worked with right-wing outlets like the Daily Caller.

The same day, Luis Cornelio hyped a Republican defense of a pair of writers hand-picked by Musk to spread Musk-approved narratives:

The left has declared war on Twitter Files journalists—but some congressional leaders are having none of it.

Firebrand Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) got candid in an interview with Fox News guest host Piers Morgan about the Democratic Party’s latest assault against Twitter Files journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger. Donalds slammed the left and “Big Media” for turning a blind eye to the scandal-ridden White House and directing their anger to individuals who have exposed damning evidence of a Censorship Industrial Complex involving Big Tech platforms and the federal government.

“We have Democrat members of congress who are berating reporters to reveal their sources, berating reporters who by the way are not conservative columnists from The Federalist or from the Washington Times,” Donalds told Morgan on the Friday edition of Fox News Tonight. “These are what you would consider liberal-leaning journalists and berating them for being a part of Elon Musk's [supposed] scheme to defame the FBI.’”

Cornelio, weirdly, never mentioned what "the left" allegedly said about Taibbi and Shellenberger or why, exactly, it amounted to "war."He also failed to mention that both Taibbi and Shellenberger are no longer attached to the "Twitter files" project, with Taibbi departing acrimoniously after Musk blocked links to Substack -- Taibbi's main writing venue -- from Twitter posts.

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