If you remember, Facebook’s News Feed team had been hit with severe allegations that a team of contractors, who carry the responsibility for the feed’s Trending Topics module, at times, meddled into the algorithm of trending topics by deliberately suppressing some selected news based on political bias. Facebook had strongly refuted the allegations, and now Facebook is taking a step to bring about a reduction in the influence humans exert over the module by putting an end to the practice of crafting editorial descriptions for topics. Facebook now plans to make a replacement of the former practice with snippets of text extracted from news stories.
Although Facebook will not be introducing a complete closure to human beings getting “involved” in Trending Topics, making a separation between legitimate news events and the silly hashtags which we have trending on a daily basis. Editors will however maintain the practice of combining multiple hashtags and keywords that make a description of a single trend under a single topic. But then we will be having a stop to descriptions for the topics being written by editors. Rather, an algorithm will be tasked with searching through news stories concerning an event as well as selecting a snippet for the purpose of display at the time when users click through on a trend or engage in hovering over it with their mouse.
“We’re committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary.”
“Making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” the company said in a blog post. “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.”
As a matter of fact, the change which was announced does not really suggest the possibility that Facebook still holds the capacity to suppress news stories if it so desired. Employees are in the process of making a decision as to what stories get to feature in the Trending Topics module, just in the same manner they were prior to the aforementioned controversy.