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Twitter rewrites Developer Policy to better support academic research and use of ‘good’ bots

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Twitter today updated its Developer Policy to clarify rules around data usage, including in academic research, as well as its position on bots, among other things. The policy has also been entirely rewritten in an effort to simplify the language used and make it more conversational, Twitter says. The new policy has been shortened from eight sections to four, and the accompanying Twitter Developer Agreement has been updated to align with the Policy changes, as well.

One of the more notable updates to the new policy is a change to the rules to better support non-commercial research.

Twitter data is used to study topics like spam, abuse and other areas related to conversation health, the company noted, and it wants these efforts to continue. The revised policy now allows the use of the Twitter API for academic research purposes. In addition, Twitter is simplifying its rules around the redistribution of Twitter data to aid researchers. Now, researchers will be able to share an unlimited number of Tweet IDs and/or User IDs, if they’re doing so on behalf of an academic institution and for the sole purpose of non-commercial research, such as peer review, says Twitter.

The company is also revising rules to clarify how developers are to proceed when the use cases for Twitter data change. In the new policy, developers are informed that they must notify the company of any “substantive” modification to their use case and receive approval before using Twitter content for that purpose. Not doing so will result in suspension and termination of their API and data access, Twitter warns.

The policy additionally outlines when and where “off-Twitter matching” is permitted, meaning when a Twitter account is being associated with a profile built using other data. Either the developer will need to obtain opt-in consent from the user in question, or they can only proceed if the information was provided by the person or is based on publicly available data.

The above changes are focused on ensuring Twitter data is accessible when being used for something of merit, like academic research, and that it’s protected from more questionable use cases.

Finally, the revamped policy clarifies that not all bots are bad. Some even enhance the Twitter experience, the company says, or provide useful information. As examples of good bots, Twitter pointed to the fun account @everycolorbot and informative @earthquakesSF.

Twitter identifies a bot as any account where behaviors like “creating, publishing, and interacting with Tweets or Direct Messages are automated in some way through our API.”

Going forward, developers must specify if they’re operating a bot account, what the account is, and who is behind it. This way, explains Twitter, “it’s easier for everyone on Twitter to know what’s a bot – and what’s not.”

Of course, those operating bots for more nefarious purposes — like spreading propaganda or disinformation — will likely just ignore this policy and hope not to be found out. This particular change follows the recent finding that a quarter of all tweets about climate change were coming from bots posting messages of climate change denialism. In addition, it was recently discovered that Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracists were using an app called Power10 to turn their Twitter accounts into bots.

Twitter says since it introduced a new developer review process in July 2018, it has reviewed over a million developer applications and approved 75%. It also suspended more than 144,000 apps from bad actors in the last six months and revamped its developer application to be easier to use. It’s now working on the next generation of the Twitter API and is continuing to explore new products, including through its testing program, Twitter Developer Labs.

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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.

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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