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Facebook’s Trending Topics Gets Major Update to Address Accusations of Bias

Facebook’s Trending feature has received a major overhaul to make the product more automated in response to accusations of bias made earlier this year.

The update removes the necessity for Facebook editors to write descriptions for trending topics.

The change come three-and-a-half months after a report from Gizmodo accused Facebook’s news curators of routinely ignoring articles that would be of interest to conservative readers, in favor of liberal content. The tech publication, which cited former Facebook news curators as sources, wrote that many conservative topics were excluded from the site’s trending news section, despite the fact that they were trending organically with Facebook users.

Although the social network made some changes back in May to address the issue, this latest update builds on that.

“Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand,” Facebook said in a blog post. “A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time. This is something we always hoped to do but we are making these changes sooner given the feedback we got from the Facebook community earlier this year.”

Now, instead of seeing a story description in Trending, you will simply see a topic heading. The new system is based on the number of original posts that mention the topic as well as shares of posts about the topic.

For example:

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To learn more about a topic, you can hover over it or click on it.

“A search results page will include the news sources that are covering it, posts discussing it and an automatically selected original news story with an excerpt pulled directly from the top article itself,” Facebook explained. “As before, articles and posts that appear in search results are surfaced algorithmically, based on a high volume of mentions and a sharp increase in mentions over a short period of time.”

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Facebook said the trending topics you see will be based on a variety of factors, such as Pages you’ve liked, where you live, previous trending topics with which you’ve interacted, and what is trending across the social media site overall.

Despite the changes, there will still be people involved in the process to ensure all topics that pop up are of high-quality. For example, a Facebook editor will still be on hand to confirm a topic is tied to a current news event.

“These changes mean that we no longer need to do things like write topic descriptions and short story summaries since we’re relying on an algorithm to pull excerpts directly from news stories. Our team will still strictly follow our guidelines, which have been updated to reflect these changes,” Facebook said.

“Earlier this year, we shared more information about Trending in response to questions about alleged political bias in the product. We looked into these claims and found no evidence of systematic bias. Still, making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics. Facebook is a platform for all ideas, and we’re committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary about a variety of topics.”

About the author

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Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.