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Twitter to launch a revamped verification system with publicly documented guidelines

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Twitter is developing a new in-app system for requesting verification, according to a recent finding from reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, which Twitter has since confirmed. The discovery involves an added “Request Verification” option that appears in a redesigned account settings screen. This feature is not launched to the public, Twitter says.

Wong typically digs into Twitter and Facebook to discover features like these, making a name for herself as someone who scoops upcoming additions and changes to popular social apps before they go live.

In this case, she stumbled upon one of Twitter’s most-requested features outside of an edit button: a way to acquire the coveted blue checkmark typically reserved for public figures.

For years, Twitter’s verification system had been fairly ad hoc, which resulted in consumer confusion around what it means to be verified on its platform. The company wanted the system to convey that someone with a high-profile account is, in fact, who they say they are. But instead, the system was often perceived as one that anointed those Twitter considered “noteworthy figures.”

The checkmark came to mean a badge of honor, to sometimes disastrous results.

This issue came to a head in 2017 when critics discovered Twitter had verified the account belonging to Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August that left one person dead. Twitter tried to explain that its system would award the verification badge to accounts of “public interest,” but critics argued that a known white supremacist isn’t even a figure that should be verified — especially when so many truly noteworthy figures are still not.

Afterward, Twitter said it would pause verifications while it figured out how to fix the system. It also pulled down the public submission form that allowed users to request verification as it worked to rethink its processes.

Later, in 2018, Twitter announced it would no longer prioritize its overhaul of the verification system to instead focus its efforts on election integrity. In the months that followed, Twitter slowed the pace of verifications, but didn’t entirely stop. It verified candidates who qualified for their primary ballot, which was an adjustment from the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. It also continued to verify elected officials who won a public office. More recently, Twitter began verifying authoritative health experts who were tweeting credible information about the novel coronavirus.

Now, the company is planning to bring back the option that allows individual users to request verification.

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But this change isn’t merely about the reappearance of the feature Wong spotted, Twitter told TechCrunch. This time around, Twitter will also publicly document what qualifies a Twitter user to be verified. The hope is that with more clarity and transparency around the process, people will understand why the company makes the choices it does.

Twitter in the past had internal guidelines around verification, but this will be the first time Twitter has ever publicly and specifically documented those rules.

The company confirmed Wong’s finding shows the forthcoming option to request verification, but would not comment on when the new system would go live or what the new guidelines will state when they become available. Twitter said this is all part of the work that’s been underway since it first said it would revamp the verification system.

The company is often criticized for how it applies its rules — whether about banning or punishing accounts that break its terms of service, which tweets it removes entirely or how it applies fact-checks, for example. In other words, documentation of how verification works won’t necessarily put an end to criticism. But it could at least establish a baseline, allowing Twitter to then tease out which exceptions to its rules will ultimately require rewritten guidelines further down the road.

TechCrunch

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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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