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Daily Crunch: Facebook faces government pressure over encryption

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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook is being leaned on by US, UK, Australia to ditch its end-to-end encryption expansion plan

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australia’s minister for home affairs, Peter Dutton, have co-signed an open letter to Facebook calling on the company to halt its plan to roll out end-to-end encryption across its suite of messaging products.

Facebook isn’t the only messaging company using end-to-end encryption, but it’s in governments’ crosshairs on account of a plan to expand its use of e2e crypto.

2. Bird raises $275 million Series D round at a $2.5 billion valuation

The scooter startup’s new round comes a few months after TechCrunch reported Bird was looking to raise a Series D round at a $2.5 billion valuation.

3. Instagram launches Threads, a Close Friends chat app with auto-status

What if Instagram could automatically tell your Close Friends you’re home, working, on-the-move or chilling and might want to hang out? That’s the idea behind its new companion app Threads.

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4. Startups ‘are staying private way too long’ says Salesforce founder Marc Benioff

“What public markets do is indeed the great reckoning,” Benioff said while onstage at Disrupt SF. “But it cleanses [a] company of all of the bad stuff that they have.”

5. Kitty Hawk reveals its secret project, Heaviside

HVSD (named after renowned physicist and electrical engineer Oliver Heaviside) is an electric aircraft designed to go anywhere and land anywhere fast and quietly. Sebastian Thrun’s aviation startup has been working on the aircraft for two years.

6. TikTok explains its ban on political advertising

This isn’t really a new ban, but rather a reiteration of an existing one. The company says it won’t allow ads supporting a candidate, political party or issue, because they don’t fit with the “light-hearted and irreverent feeling” that the app is aiming for.

7. Google-backed Dunzo raises $45M to expand its hyperlocal delivery startup in India

An Indian startup that is increasingly posing a threat to established food and grocery delivery businesses, as well as to e-commerce giants, just closed a new financing round.

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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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.

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.”

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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

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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