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Twitter bots and memorialized users will become ‘new account types’ in 2021

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After a period of public feedback, Twitter adjusted some its plans for a new verification process, set to roll out next year. The company suspended public verification applications in 2017 and since appears to have rethought a few aspects of what information the platform should signal to its users, blue checks and beyond.

One big verification-adjacent change around the corner: Twitter plans to add a way of distinguishing bots and other automated accounts.

“… It can be confusing to people if it’s not clear that these accounts are automated,” the company wrote in a blog post. “In 2021, we’re planning to build a new account type to distinguish automated accounts from human-run accounts to make it easier for people to know what’s a bot and what’s not.”

Of course, not all bots are good bots, but automated accounts have flourished on the platform since its early days and bots remain some of the most useful, whimsical and otherwise beloved sources of tweets.

The company is also working on a better way to handle accounts for users who have died, and plans to introduce a memorialization process in 2021. Twitter says that memorialized accounts, like bots, will become “a new account type,” making them distinct from normal users. The idea grew out of the same spirit as Twitter’s labels for political figures, which sought to provide contextual info about users that can be seen at a glance.

Taking more than 22,000 pieces of feedback on the new verification process into account, Twitter will no longer require a profile bio or header picture to verify users, calling its former thinking “too restrictive.” It’s also redefined a few of its eligible verification categories, expanding “sports” to include esports and adding more language around digital content creators into the entertainment category.

Twitter also apparently received a lot of suggestions calling for additional verification categories for scientists, academics and religious figures. Until it spins out more categories, those users can seek verification under the “activists, organizers, and other influential individuals” catch-all category.

Verification applicants will need to apply under a particular category and provide links or other information supporting their application. The new “self-serve” verification process will be available through account settings on both mobile and desktop.

Twitter will implement the new account verification policy on January 20, 2021, three years after freezing the process. The company did not specify when public verification applications will be accepted again, but it sounds like the wait won’t be too long and the company plans to share more soon. Starting on the 20th, Twitter will begin sweeping out inactive verified accounts and others that don’t meet its new bar for a “complete account.”

In the adjusted policy, a complete account — and one eligible for verification — must have a verified email or phone number, a profile image and a display name. Anyone who’s verified but doesn’t meet those criteria will receive notifications of the required changes, which must be made before January 20.

Twitter’s new policy also lays out the company’s right to revoke verification for accounts in “severe or repeated violation” of the platform’s rules. It sounds like new policy could lay a clearer path for the company to take against users who break the rules, though that ultimately will come down to enforcement rather than written policies.

“We will continue to evaluate such accounts on a case-by-case basis, and will make improvements in 2021 on the relationship between enforcement of our rules and verification,” Twitter wrote in the post.

Twitter paused the verification process in November, 2017 following a public outcry over its decision to verify Jason Kessler. Kessler infamously organized the Unite the Right event in Charlottesville, Virginia that gathered neo-Nazis and white supremacists, ultimately leaving one peaceful counterprotester dead. The pause was extended the next year as the company decided to direct more resources toward election integrity.

With the midterms and the general U.S. election behind it, Twitter has returned to its effort to rethink the verification process and what it symbolizes for users on the platform. The company is also experimenting with new features that could dial down harassment, toxicity and misinformation.

Twitter recently added friction to the retweet process in an effort to slow the spread of misinformation, though it rolled the change back after the election. Twitter’s latest test: A new pop-up that displays shared interests and a profile bio when a user goes to reply to someone they don’t follow.

TechCrunch

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

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