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Daily Crunch: Twitter confronts image-cropping concerns

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Twitter addresses questions of bias in its image-cropping algorithms, we take a look at Mario Kart Live and the stock market takes a hit after President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. This is your Daily Crunch for October 2, 2020.

The big story: Twitter confronts image-cropping concerns

Last month, (white) PhD student Colin Madland highlighted potential algorithmic bias on Twitter and Zoom — in Twitter’s case, because its automatic image cropping seemed to consistently highlight Madland’s face over that of a Black colleague.

Today, Twitter said it has been looking into the issue: “While our analyses to date haven’t shown racial or gender bias, we recognize that the way we automatically crop photos means there is a potential for harm.”

Does that mean it will stop automatically cropping images? The company said it’s “exploring different options” and added, “We hope that giving people more choices for image cropping and previewing what they’ll look like in the tweet composer may help reduce the risk of harm.”

The tech giants

Nintendo’s new RC Mario Kart looks terrific — Mario Kart Live (with a real-world race car) makes for one hell of an impressive demo.

Tesla delivers 139,300 vehicles in Q3, beating expectations — Tesla’s numbers in the third quarter marked a 43% improvement from the same period last year.

Zynga completes its acquisition of hyper-casual game maker Rollic — CEO Frank Gibeau told me that this represents Zynga’s first move into the world of hyper-casual games.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Elon Musk says an update for SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft development program is coming in 3 weeks —  Starship is a next-generation, fully reusable spacecraft that the company is developing with the aim of replacing all of its launch vehicles.

Paired picks up $1M funding and launches its relationship app for couples — Paired combines audio tips from experts with “fun daily questions and quizzes” that partners answer together.

With $2.7M in fresh funding, Sora hopes to bring virtual high school to the mainstream — Long before the coronavirus, Sora was toying with the idea of live, virtual high school.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Spain’s startup ecosystem: 9 investors on remote work, green shoots and 2020 trends — While main hubs Madrid and Barcelona bump heads politically, tech ecosystems in each city have been developing with local support.

Which neobanks will rise or fall? — Neobanks have led the $3.6 billion in venture capital funding for consumer fintech startups this year.

Asana’s strong direct listing lights alternative path to public market for SaaS startups — Despite rising cash burn and losses, Wall Street welcomed the productivity company.

Everything else

American stocks drop in wake of president’s COVID-19 diagnosis — The news is weighing heavily on all major American indices, but heaviest on tech shares.

Digital vote-by-mail applications in most states are inaccessible to people with disabilities — According to an audit by Deque, most states don’t actually have an accessible digital application.

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 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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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.

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.

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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