GOP lawmakers target big tech after Trump ban from social media
Trying to return former President Donald Trump and other banned conservatives to social media platforms, two Florida lawmakers filed proposals Tuesday that would prohibit state agencies and local governments from contracting with some tech-industry giants.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Trying to return former President Donald Trump and other banned conservatives to social media platforms, two Florida lawmakers filed proposals Tuesday that would prohibit state agencies and local governments from contracting with some tech-industry giants.
The proposals (SB 810 and HB 439), filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, target Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet.
“Our goal is for these companies to realize that they have made a mistake and reverse course, so we never actually have to do this,” Fine said during a news conference outside the Old Capitol. “But should they continue to shut down the thoughts of half of our state, then we have to stand up for those folks and say, ‘Look, if you want to boycott Florida, we are going to boycott you.’”
Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said conservative voices are being “suppressed” and that tech companies are so large they are the “public square.”
Gruters said the companies could avoid the sanctions by “not suppressing conservative voices.”
“It’s letting people like President Trump back on Twitter. It’s letting people like the 70,000 conservative voices that have already been suppressed back on Twitter,” Gruters said.
Two days after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Twitter banned Trump’s account, which for years had been one of his main vehicles for communicating with the public.
In its decision, Twitter said that after “close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
“Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly,” the company added. “It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”
Asked about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, Gruters said the Legislature is addressing that through a separate proposal (HB 1 and SB 484) aimed at cracking down on violent protests.
“Regardless of political affiliation, regardless of what side you’re on, if you are a violent, young thug, if you are doing damage if you are looting, if you are committing any type of offense against any type of officer, you are going to go to jail,” Gruters said.
Democrats, however, have said the violent-protest legislation, initially floated in September, is overkill and is designed to quash the voices of Black and brown Floridians.
The bills announced Tuesday, in addition to prohibiting state agencies or local governments from contracting with the technology companies, would prohibit Florida governments from using products in which more than 25 percent of the parts were made in China.
Fine and Gruters said they included China in the bill for failing to protect the world from COVID-19.
Fine said supporters of the bill hope Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet also will take up the big-tech issue, similar to when Airbnb was put on a state list of “scrutinized” companies in 2019 over the company’s plan to eliminate about 200 listings in the West Bank, an area that is a major flashpoint in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Florida’s scrutinized-companies list, in part, prohibits state investment in firms that boycott Israel. Airbnb was removed from the list after the company decided against delisting the West Bank properties.
On Jan. 12, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis tweeted support for divesting Florida from the technology companies.
“We should consider getting this on the next Cabinet agenda,” Patronis tweeted. “Big-tech coordinated to shut down conservative accounts but still allows (Venezuela leader) Nicolás Maduro to spread lies.”
A Feb. 2 Cabinet agenda does not include the issue.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
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