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Social media bans do not violate First Amendment rights

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INDIANAPOLIS — There are growing concerns, and some frustrations, over social media accounts and the tech companies deciding who to boot from the platforms. Or, in Parler’s case, dismantle for now at least.

Twitter and Facebook banned President Donald Trump and others from their platforms recently. This is not a violation of any person’s free speech.

“The right to free speech extends to individuals and applies to government intervention,” Paaige Turner, Ball State’s Dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media, said. “These companies are private entities, and they have the right to modify, adjust the products that they’re offering to the community.”

Turner explained we are at a crossroads in deciding whether social media is a private corporation or a public entity. Twitter and Facebook are both private companies.

“At some point, if we were to perhaps pursue a road where government regulated social media, we’re probably looking at an amendment to our constitution,” Turner said.

Experts, lawmakers, and even tech leaders wrestle with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996. This law essentially protects tech companies and news websites from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, and leaves them with the decision to remove it.

Asaf Lubin, an associate professor of law at the IU Maurer School of Law, explained there is room to consider changes to Section 230.

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“There’s room to re-examine how and to what extent those old liability standards should remain in force as the internet has evolved and matured, and to what extent should the legislator be more upfront and outspoken about specific rules to guide transparency around how these terms of service are defined, grievance mechanisms to ensure that those whose users are blocked or accounts are deleted can still bring appeals or challenges to the corporations as well as subject matter,” Lubin said. “Kind of first-order rules about privacy, defamation, intellectual privacy violations all those areas of internet governance that the government could take a far greater role in setting which it currently is not doing.”

These are complex topics involving social media, government and civil liberties we hold dear.

“We have never had to face this before,” Turner said. “We have never had to have these conversations before, unfortunately, we’re having them now at a time when the stakes are incredibly high.”

You can find Twitters’ guidelines and policies at help.twitter.com. Facebook’s guidelines are available at www.facebook.com/communitystandards/.

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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

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Searchenginejournal.com

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