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Facebook to make trending news feature more automated

Instead of the descriptions, the algorithm will allow users to just see the topic which is trending and the number of people talking about it.? Photograph: (Reuters)

WION San Francisco, CA, United States Aug 27, 2016, 06.11 AM (IST)
Social media giant Facebook on Friday said that its 'trending' feature, where a few popular news topics are listed on the homepage, will be automated to rely on algorithms that will no longer require people to write descriptions for the most ‘popular’ topics. 

This, according to social media giant, will lessen the risk of personal bias in manipulating what props up on the hot topics’ list. 

The move comes in the wake of allegations made by critics that Facebook’s trending section was biased against conservative news outlets. The company has denied the allegations. 

"We looked into these claims and found no evidence of systematic bias," Facebook reiterated in its blog post on Friday, adding that "making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics."

Instead of the descriptions, the algorithm will allow users to just see the topic which is trending and the number of people talking about it. 

Letting a cursor hover over a topic will show "an automatically selected original news story with an excerpt pulled directly from the top article itself."
 
Letting a cursor hover over a topic will show "an automatically selected original news story with an excerpt pulled directly from the top article itself."


However, humans will ensure that topics making the news are real-world news and not based on any vague internet trend. That is, they will just verify the quality but not hand-pick the topics to be featured. 

"Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature," Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said in a letter responding to a query from Republican US Senator John Thune, who chairs the commerce committee.

The letter stated that Facebook had updated its terminology and gave reviewers the training that emphasised content decisions were not based on politics or ideology. 

"In fact, our analysis indicated that the rates of approval of conservative and liberal topics are virtually identical in Trending Topics."

Facebook stopped stop relying on external websites and news outlets as its review team became subject to more controls. 

Technology news outlet Gizmodo had also reported anonymous allegations that Facebook was deliberately omitting articles with a conservative spin. 

(WION with inputs from AFP)
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