Connect with us

NEWS

States launch ‘trusted information’ efforts against fake news on social media

Published

on

(CNN)A Facebook account impersonating the Swain County board of elections in North Carolina. Unfounded rumors that Tarrant County, Texas, doesn’t have former Vice President Joe Biden on the ballot. Wrong claims in Maine that Election Day is on different days for Republicans than for Democrats.

The misinformation on social media is contributing to a heightened alert ahead of Super Tuesday, when millions of Americans are expected to cast 2020 primary ballots.

“Misinformation is the most likely source of trouble we’re going to experience this year,” Keith Ingram, elections director at the Texas Secretary of State’s office, told CNN.

State officials say misinformation poses as big a threat to elections as cyber-attacks that could cripple voting infrastructure. So to counter the bad information online, states are increasingly going on the offensive — trying to spread good information to inoculate the public.

But while experts commend the effort, many have questions about its effectiveness — and some say states could be doing more.

Earlier this week, California’s secretary of state sent emails to the 6.6 million registered voters with email addresses on file, directing them to the state’s election education guide. North Carolina’s board of elections ran radio ads recently reminding voters that photo identification will not be necessary in the state on Super Tuesday, thanks to a recent court ruling.

Ingram said Texas’s online portal for accurate election information, votetexas.gov, is being “pounded in people’s minds” through social media.

And across the country, officials are using the hashtag #trustedinfo2020 to tell Americans exactly where to find the bedrock truth for election information.

See also  Facebook agrees to pay UK data watchdog’s Cambridge Analytica fine but settles without admitting liability

“Your source for #TrustedInfo2020 is ALWAYS your state and county election officials,” Oklahoma’s state election board tweeted last week — pointing voters to an internet portal for identifying polling places and requesting absentee ballots. The hashtag campaign is organized by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).

Drowning out misinformation

By flooding the zone with constructive content, states are hoping to drown out negative or harmful material. It’s an idea linked to a growing body of research on online extremism, which has found that offering a contrasting view against hate speech can minimize its impact and lead to more engagement for the positive messages on social media.

“The #trustedinfo2020 campaign is really a sort of reminder to people that there are resources that they can trust if they hear something or if they have some question about the news,” said Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in an interview with CNN.

Meanwhile, in California, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has taken out ads on social media to promote the visibility of accurate information, according to Sam Mahood, an agency spokesman. In some cases, Mahood said, posts from the secretary’s official social media accounts correcting online misinformation were picked up by news outlets who helped further suppress the spread of false claims.

Social media platforms have also dramatically improved their relationships with states compared to 2016 and 2018, election officials said. Whereas some states once lacked ways to contact Facebook or Twitter in earlier cycles, that’s changed, said Ingram.

“They’ve all made themselves accessible,” he said. “They all have folks who reach out to us, and we have their [contact] information.”

See also  Google Adds New Options to Edit Your Google My Business Profile Direct from Search and Maps

The same goes for the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security has established real-time communications channels for state and local officials to share reports of suspicious activity. Those portals are mostly focused on cybersecurity threats. But the US government will “continue to plan for the worst” as it anticipates Russia continuing its misinformation efforts this year, acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf told CNN last week in North Carolina.

Wolf also called on voters to make sure they are “getting their information straight from the source.”

States reaching out to social media

As recently as last week, Facebook removed a misleading page that falsely told North Carolina voters they could fill out one bubble on a general-election ballot in order to vote for a single party across all eligible races, said Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the state board of elections. The page risked confusing North Carolinians and damaging trust in the democratic process, he added, but Facebook removed it at the state’s request.

Still, playing Whack-a-Mole against individual cases of misinformation is no substitute for providing credible information, according to state officials.

Experts say awareness campaigns like #trustedinfo2020 are critical to improving public trust in the democratic process.

But, they added, there’s no single solution for a problem as abstract and multi-faceted as online misinformation, said Matt Sheehan, managing director of the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida.

“I wish there was a fix as simple as a hashtag, but it runs counter to how we’re wired as humans,” he said. “Our personalities and worldviews color the information we find credible, or seek out as consumers.”

See also  TikTok to flag and downrank ‘unsubstantiated’ claims fact checkers can’t verify

The dedication of those trying to mislead voters, as well as the natural ebb and flow of ordinary misinformation, makes it hard for officials to compete, said Rachel Goodman, an attorney at the civil society nonprofit Protect Democracy.

“The unfortunate reality is, because there’s so many resources on the misnformation side,” she said, “it’s hard to see until we’re really in the crucible how it really measures up.”

By some estimates, the #trustedinfo2020 campaign doesn’t appear to have spread very far. One researcher who analyzed the hashtag told CNN that since late last year, it has been mentioned in about 10,000 tweets, mostly in posts created by election officials themselves. NASS declined to comment.

“Ten thousand mentions since mid-November is a relatively low volume,” said Ben Nimmo, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “It shows there’s been some pickup, but it’s not a viral phenomenon yet.”

CNN’s Geneva Sands contributed to this report.

Read More

Continue Reading
Advertisement

NEWS

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

Published

on

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.”

Advertisement

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.

See also  Voice chat is coming to Roblox

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.

Advertisement

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.

See also  Building Brand Reputation on Social Audio Apps like Clubhouse

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

Continue Reading

NEWS

Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is

Published

on

survey-says:-amazon,-google-more-trusted-with-your-personal-data-than-apple-is-–-phonearena
 

MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.

Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple

Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.

However, 39% said that they trust Amazon  by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.

By adding up the scores in the positive categories,

Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.

See also  A Visual Guide to Profile Picture NFTs [Infographic]

Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.

Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.

74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive

The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.

The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?

Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”

See also  Instagram Outlines Steps to Address Potential Areas of Racial Inequality on its Platform

The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”

Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.

When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”

Continue Reading

NEWS

Google’s John Mueller on Brand Mentions via @sejournal, @martinibuster

Published

on

Google’s John Mueller was asked if “brand mentions” helped with SEO and rankings. John Mueller explained, in detail, how brand mentions are not anything used at Google.

What’s A Brand Mention?

A brand mention is when one website mentions another website. There is an idea in the SEO community that when a website mentions another website’s domain name or URL that Google will see this and count it the same as a link.

Brand Mentions are also known as an implied link. Much was written about this ten years ago after a Google patent that mentions “implied links” surfaced.

There has never been a solid review of why the idea of “brand mentions” has nothing to do with this patent, but I’ll provide a shortened version later in this article.

John Mueller Discussing Brand Mentions

John Mueller Brand Mentions

John Mueller Brand Mentions

Do Brand Mentions Help With Rankings?

The person asking the question wanted to know about brand mentions for the purpose of ranking. The person asking the question has good reason to ask it because the idea of “brand mentions” has never been definitively reviewed.

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

The person asked the question:

“Do brand mentions without a link help with SEO rankings?”

Google Does Not Use Brand Mentions

Google’s John Mueller answered that Google does not use the “brand mentions” for any link related purpose.

Mueller explained:

“From my point of view, I don’t think we use those at all for things like PageRank or understanding the link graph of a website.

And just a plain mention is sometimes kind of tricky to figure out anyway.”

That part about it being tricky is interesting.

He didn’t elaborate on why it’s tricky until later in the video where he says it’s hard to understand the subjective context of a website mentioning another website.

Brand Mentions Are Useful For Building Awareness

Mueller next says that brand mentions may be useful for helping to get the word out about a site, which is about building popularity.

Mueller continued:

“But it can be something that makes people aware of your brand, and from that point of view, could be something where indirectly you might have some kind of an effect from that in that they search for your brand and then …obviously, if they’re searching for your brand then hopefully they find you right away and then they can go to your website.

And if they like what they see there, then again, they can go off and recommend that to other people as well.”

Advertisement

See also  Facebook agrees to pay UK data watchdog’s Cambridge Analytica fine but settles without admitting liability

Continue Reading Below

“Brand Mentions” Are Problematic

Later on at the 58 minute mark another person brings the topic back up and asks how Google could handle spam sites that are mentioning a brand in a negative way.

The person said that one can disavow links but one cannot disavow a “brand mention.”

Mueller agreed and said that’s one of things that makes brand mentions difficult to use for ranking purposes.

John Mueller explained:

“Kind of understanding the almost the subjective context of the mention is really hard.

Is it like a positive mention or a negative mention?

Is it a sarcastic positive mention or a sarcastic negative mention? How can you even tell?

And all of that, together with the fact that there are lots of spammy sites out there and sometimes they just spin content, sometimes they’re malicious with regards to the content that they create…

All of that, I think, makes it really hard to say we can just use that as the same as a link.

…It’s just, I think, too confusing to use as a clear signal.”

Where “Brand Mentions” Come From

The idea of “brand mentions” has bounced around for over ten years.

There were no research papers or patents to support it. “Brand mentions” is literally an idea that someone invented out of thin air.

However the “brand mention” idea took off in 2012 when a patent surfaced that seemed to confirm the idea of brand mentions.

There’s a whole long story to this so I’m just going to condense it.

There’s a patent from 2012 that was misinterpreted in several different ways because most people at the time, myself included, did not read the entire patent from beginning to end.

See also  Voice chat is coming to Roblox

The patent itself is about ranking web pages.

The structure of most Google patents consist of introductory paragraphs that discuss what the patent is about and those paragraphs are followed by pages of in-depth description of the details.

The introductory paragraphs that explain what it’s about states:

“Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs… for ranking search results.”

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Pretty much nobody read that beginning part of the patent.

Everyone focused on a single paragraph in the middle of the patent (page 9 out of 16 pages).

In that paragraph there is a mention of something called “implied links.”

The word “implied” is only mentioned four times in the entire patent and all four times are contained within that single paragraph.

So when this patent was discovered, the SEO industry focused on that single paragraph as proof that Google uses brand mentions.

In order to understand what an “implied link” is, you have to scroll all the way back up to the opening paragraphs where the Google patent authors describe something called a “reference query” that is not a link but is nevertheless used for ranking purposes just like a link.

What Is A Reference Query?

A reference query is a search query that contains a reference to a URL or a domain name.

The patent states:

“A reference query for a particular group of resources can be a previously submitted search query that has been categorized as referring to a resource in the particular group of resources.”

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Elsewhere the patent provides a more specific explanation:

“A query can be classified as referring to a particular resource if the query includes a term that is recognized by the system as referring to the particular resource.

…search queries including the term “example.com” can be classified as referring to that home page.”

The summary of the patent, which comes at the beginning of the document, states that it’s about establishing which links to a website are independent and also counting reference queries and with that information creating a “modification factor” which is used to rank web pages.

“…determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective count of reference queries; determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective group-specific modification factor, wherein the group-specific modification factor for each group is based on the count of independent links and the count of reference queries for the group;”

The entire patent largely rests on those two very important factors, a count of independent inbound links and the count of reference queries. The phrases reference query and reference queries are used 39 times in the patent.

See also  Instagram Outlines Steps to Address Potential Areas of Racial Inequality on its Platform

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

As noted above, the reference query is used for ranking purposes like a link, but it’s not a link.

The patent states:

“An implied link is a reference to a target resource…”

It’s clear that in this patent, when it mentions the implied link, it’s talking about reference queries, which as explained above simply means when people search using keywords and the domain name of a website.

Idea of Brand Mentions Is False

The whole idea of “brand mentions” became a part of SEO belief systems because of how that patent was misinterpreted.

But now you have the facts and know why “brand mentions” is not real thing.

Plus John Mueller confirmed it.

“Brand mentions” is something completely random that someone in the SEO community invented out of thin air.

Citations

Ranking Search Results Patent

Watch John Mueller discuss “brand mentions” at 44:10 Minute Mark and the brand Mentions second part begins at the 58:12 minute mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

Continue Reading

DON'T MISS ANY IMPORTANT NEWS!
Subscribe To our Newsletter
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

Trending