If you look at Facebook’s Trending section for any of your news, you might have noticed some changes recently.
Facebook announced the updates in January but they took a few weeks to fully roll out. Before, the Trending section only listed a topic and how many people were talking about it on social media. Now, people see the topic, the publisher and the publisher’s headline.
The changes were in response to the rise of fake news in the 2016 election.
“We think it’ll help [minimize] cases where maybe one specific story goes viral even if there might not be something real going on in the world about that story,” Will Cathcart, a VP of product management at Facebook, told Recode.
The changes listed above are just the aesthetic ones. The algorithm has also been adjusted in how it identifies topics; it will look at the number of publishers posting on that topic rather than the amount of engagement surrounding one post or article.
“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,” Cathcart wrote in a blog post.
Finally, everyone is going to see the same topics in Trending, rather than being tailored to that person’s individual interests.
While Facebook’s Trending has been under scrutiny since it debuted in 2014 – 63 percent of users told Pew in 2015 that they use the social networking site to consume news – its integrity was called into question when Gizmodo quoted anonymous Facebook news curators in May 2016 saying they regularly suppressed conservative news. Facebook officials denied the report but fired the curators soon after, announcing the topics in the Trending section would be picked by a computer algorithm instead.
Days after the people-free algorithm was launched, Trending was promoting fake news stories, such as one saying Megyn Kelly was fired from Fox News because she supported Hillary Clinton (she was not fired and there is no evidence she supported Clinton). Facebook now says the topics are selected by the algorithm but “reviewed by a team to ensure they represent real-world events.” More details on that process can be found here.