Facebook changes ‘Trending’ feature to rely less on human editors
The update is Facebook’s latest attempt in recent months to stress its neutrality as its influence grows.
The feature came under scrutiny in May after a news report alleged it suppressed conservative news, which prompted a demand from Republican members of the US Congress for more transparency. Facebook said an internal probe found no evidence of bias.
The Trending feature shows users the most-talked-about stories and topics on the top right-hand corner of Facebook’s home page with one-sentence descriptions. To eliminate the potential for bias, Facebook said it would no longer rely on editors to write descriptions for the topics and would instead show users the topic and how many people are discussing it.
Facebook said in an e-mailed statement that the composition of its Trending team would focus more on technical expertise since it no longer needed editors to write descriptions. The company did not say whether it was laying off employees.
Facebook maintains it is a neutral platform, but its political influence has come under scrutiny, especially as its user base swells. It has 1.7 billion people on its social network, and studies have shown it has the power to influence people’s behaviour, ranging from registering as organ donors to registering to vote.
After the May news report first surfaced, Facebook penned a lengthy blog post explaining how the Trending feature works, the first time it had done so. Less than two weeks later, the company said it changed some procedures and outlined those changes in an effort to be more transparent.