Social Media Companies Are Banning Trump. Why Now? Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks to social media researcher Jennifer Grygiel about why social media companies didn’t react sooner to President Trump’s online presence.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST
Big Tech is also getting involved in the reckoning over the assault on Congress. It’s not only Twitter that deplatformed the president, cutting him off from some 88 million followers. Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit and even Pinterest suspended Donald Trump’s presence indefinitely. And on Saturday, Amazon booted Parler, a popular social media platform for the far right, off its web hosting service. And Apple removed it off its App Store. They all say President Trump’s online rhetoric incited the kind of violence we saw on January 6. Jennifer Grygiel is an assistant professor specializing in social media at Syracuse University. We’ve reached them in New York. Welcome to the program.
JENNIFER GRYGIEL: Hi. Nice to be with you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a deeply divisive move we’re seeing – your reaction to what’s happening.
GRYGIEL: Well, it really highlights the complexity of the media ecosystem. There’s lots of interconnected parts in the technology world and the social media world that helps an app come to market. So I think everyone’s trying to piece this together. The companies are starting to understand that Parler and other apps have not done enough to make sure that they are essentially not dangerous products. And they’re seeking to make sure that they are not contributing to harm that has taken place here to the American democracy but also the public safety at this point after what we saw on the Capitol.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why didn’t they react sooner, do you think? I mean, are they just positioning themselves to deal with a new administration, or is this something else?
GRYGIEL: I think that this is a reckoning that’s come when it comes to social media. First, it was like, what are these things? And there isn’t a lot of regulation in this space. So we have a couple of laws that allow, essentially, platforms to moderate their content but also nothing really properly motivating them to make sure that they do it fast enough or that they run these companies in ways that are safe.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk about Parler in particular briefly because I think people might be surprised to learn that Amazon has the power to shut down a site it doesn’t own. Can you explain briefly?
GRYGIEL: Well, they’re not shutting it down, per se. They are making sure that, you know, they don’t support and essentially provide the infrastructure to a company that is dangerous at this point. Parler is still able to set up their company and to run it. They just need to do it more independently. And these companies have decided they don’t want to support this and be a part of it, and that’s their right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you bring up, I think, the essential point about all this, which is that there is a great debate about what exactly social media is. President Trump and his supporters say that these bans and suspensions amount to a violation of their freedom of speech. We know that free speech has its limits when it comes to fomenting violence, and we also know that private companies aren’t covered by the First Amendment. But do you foresee legal challenges to these decisions that might have some traction?
GRYGIEL: The president has done a good job of confusing everybody and making this a free speech issue, but when it comes to him specifically, he’s the government. He’s an elected official. And unfortunately, the president has been systematically pushing out propaganda and circumventing the free press for years by using social media. And who says the president needed to tweet? You know, I said that a few days ago, too. And guess what? Now he’s not even able to tweet. So obviously, it’s not something that’s fundamental, right? Like, we now have a president that doesn’t tweet. This is all cultural. And we really need our, you know, government to evaluate how the federal government itself is able to use social media in the interest of, you know, public safety, to make sure that the American people are never propagandized by any president – Trump or in the incoming Biden administration or in the future. This is just a very terrible situation, what happened on the Capitol. And we need social media to be regulated in a safe space.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jennifer Grygiel is assistant professor specializing in social media at Syracuse University. Thank you very much.
GRYGIEL: Thank you.
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.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
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