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Trump’s executive order attacking social media companies faces its first legal challenge

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An executive order from the White House targeting Twitter for moderating one of the president’s posts is being challenged in a new lawsuit from a digital rights group. The president signed the order last week after Twitter added a fact-checking label to one of his tweets that made false claims about mail-in voting.

The order, signed with the blessing of Attorney General William Barr, took aim in particular at a law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from legal liability for the content they host.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a nonprofit focused on defending online civil liberties. That group and other online civil organizations organizations attacked the president’s order last week, with the ACLU dismissing the action as a “blatant, thin-skinned efforts to stifle expression.”

In the suit, embedded below, the CDT argues that the executive order is “plainly retaliatory” in attacking Twitter, which was within its First Amendment rights in annotating the president’s tweet. The lawsuit also criticized the president’s intention to “curtail and chill the constitutionally protected speech of all online platforms and individuals” by wielding the power of the government against its critics.

Twitter shared its support for the CDT’s suit on Tuesday, calling the executive order “a reactionary and politicized” action that encroaches on a free internet.

Tensions between Twitter and President Trump continued to escalate as the company took action against another of the president’s tweets late last week for glorifying violence. That tweet threatened U.S. protesters with the ominous statement “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — a phrase with troubling historical roots in state-sanctioned violence against black Americans.

“The Executive Order is designed to deter social media services from fighting misinformation, voter suppression, and the stoking of violence on their platforms,” CDT President and CEO Alexandra Givens said.

“… The President has made clear his intent to use threats of retaliation and future regulation to intimidate intermediaries into changing how they moderate content, essentially ensuring that the dangers of voter suppression and disinformation will grow unchecked in an election year.”

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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

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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