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Your newspaper beats social media for facts

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The debate over how social media is handling – and should handle – false political advertising covers a lot of ground.

On one side, Mark Zuckerberg’s public declaration that Facebook will continue to accept payments for political advertisements without fact-checking. On the other, Twitter’s line in the sand, it will not accept political advertising at all.

As the debate plays out, it’s worth asking: Is social media, designed to give anyone and everyone their 15 minutes of fame, be it via a slip-and-fall meme or a cat video, the place to get vetted information on our government and its leaders?

The internet is vast, wild and full of false information. The CIA-confirmed narrative of Russian trolls’ coordinated intervention in the 2016 election is just one cautionary tale of social media as the new Trojan horse. We don’t just invite disinformation into our cities; we bring it into our homes.

Zuckerberg may or may not cave to mounting pressure to adopt a Twitter-like ban on political advertising. But Facebook is just one – albeit giant – platform. The real problem lies in our willingness to trust unvetted information from social media, especially when it comes to political news. As long as that’s true, we are susceptible to the next platform flavor of the week – and not all will be run by companies with leaders easily hauled before Congress. Beijing-based TikTok, anybody?

Expecting Facebook or Twitter to vet information is not the answer. That’s an impossible task, especially given the speed users expect answers.

But it’s not all “1984” apocalyptic disinformation-age mayhem. We’re here to remind you a place does exist where facts are still valued and truth still matters: The humble local newspaper. (Yes, we are tooting our own horn here.) Traditional media has its share of critics and is certainly not without fault. Critics cry bias, others dismiss paper as something from the dinosaur age. Since the advent of the internet it’s had to compete for what was a captive audience.

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But for those who have forgotten what newspapers do – both in print and on the internet – here’s a reminder: They report the news, as accurately and as quickly as they can.

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Every day, local reporters and photographers head out into the community to spend time in schools, courtrooms, businesses, government buildings and homes – all with the goal of seeing, understanding and reporting the realities of life …. Every day, editors work to ensure stories are clear and accurate. Every day, designers and press staff work to put those stories into an easy-to-read format.

Are there errors and flaws? Of course. That’s true of any human endeavor, especially one that releases a new product 365 days a year. But we’re not nameless, faceless trolls sitting behind a computer somewhere in Russia or China. We live in your community. Reporters put their names on stories, photographers on their pictures. We pick up the phone when readers call. On our editorial pages we regularly publish letters and columns critical of our editorial stances and news coverage.

In other words, unlike shadow writers populating social media with rumors, half-truths and blatant lies, we are accountable to you, the reader.

The Journal isn’t alone. A vibrant ecosystem of local news organizations dot the state and nation, each doing valuable reporting that likely would otherwise go undone.

You might be frustrated with traditional media. You might feel a story or an editorial is unfair, roll your eyes when you catch a typo, or wonder why you should pay for a subscription when so-called “news” is free online.

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But you get what you pay for, and communities without local newspapers are worse off for it. We’re committed to fighting for your right to know and to preserving your voice.

So use that voice. Write letters to the editor, or pick up the phone and call. Subscribe to your local paper so you won’t have to rely on Facebook or Twitter to tell you what’s true.

Because they’ve made it clear that’s not their job. It’s ours.

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This editorial was written by the editorial board of the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal and was published Nov. 7, 2019. It is reprinted here with permission.

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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.

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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

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Searchenginejournal.com

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