Facebook announces changes to trending news

posted at 9:01 pm on January 25, 2017 by John Sexton

Facebook has announced changes to their trending topics news section which will roll out beginning today. The three major changes include adding the name of the article and the news source to the trending topics list. Facebook provided this comparison image showing how the new trending section will look:

The next change announced today involves how topics appear in the trending section:

Previously, topics may have trended due to high engagement on Facebook around a single post or article. With today’s update, we will now look at the number of publishers that are posting articles on Facebook about the same topic, and the engagement around that group of articles. This should surface trending topics quicker, be more effective at capturing a broader range of news and events from around the world and also help ensure that trending topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets.

In the past, human editors made a decision about which topics would appear, but that changed after allegations of bias surfaced. From the Associated Press:

Questions about Facebook’s influence on what people are reading intensified last summer after a technology blog relying on an anonymous source reported that human editors routinely suppressed conservative viewpoints on the site.

Facebook fired the small group of journalists overseeing its trending items and replaced them with an algorithm that was supposed to be a more neutral judge about what to put on the list.

But the automated approach began to pick out posts that were getting the most attention, even if the information in them was bogus. Some of the fake news stories targeted Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, prompting critics to believe the falsehoods help Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls.

I wrote about the bias accusations, and Facebook’s response to them, back in May. After the subsequent concerns arose about fake news, Facebook announced plans to label those stories and allow readers to report hoaxes.

The final change announced today is to ensure that all users in a given area will see the same trending topics. In the past, lists of trending stories were customized for every user.


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