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Facebook and It’s ‘Trending Topics’ Problem

9 months ago · 1 min read

The world's largest social network has finally settled on an effective way to list basic news stories.

Facebook deployed a revised version of its controversial "Trending Topics" feature Thursday. It now shows each user a standardized list of news stories based on an automated survey of what a diverse collection of media outlets are covering. Previously, each individual user saw a personalized list of news stories in the Trending module.
When you log onto Facebook's desktop version, you'll see Trending stories on the right, as usual. Stories are sorted according to topic and feature headlines pulled directly from news outlets—they're not written by Facebook. Clicking into the topics shows you related media, links and posts. It works much the same way on the mobile app, though you only see Trending stories after tapping on the search bar. This new system is designed to fight back against the rise of so-called "fake news," which has proliferated on the social network in recent months.
"Trending uses a variety of signals from News Feed, including when people report news as fake or spam, to help prevent fake news, hoaxes or spam from appearing in Trending," Will Cathcart, vice president of product management at Facebook, said in a blog post announcing the update. "Today’s update may also help prevent hoaxes and fake news from appearing in Trending because the updated system identifies groups of articles shared on Facebook instead of relying solely on mentions of a topic." Journalists were purged from Facebook's team last year after a Gizmodo report indicated that political bias sometimes shaped which stories "trended" on the platform.

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