- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2016

Much of Facebook’s trending topics section will no longer be in human hands. Instead, the social media giant will rely on a special algorithm to help people discover news across the web.

“Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand,” the company said in a statement released Friday. “A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time. This is something we always hoped to do but we are making these changes sooner given the feedback we got from the Facebook community earlier this year.”

The change, which comes just three months after Facebook was charged by the technology website Gizmodo of favoring a liberal worldview, means that special descriptions of stories in trending topics will now be replaced with a “simplified topic.” Whereas users once saw “Mars: NASA rover captures incredible 360 view of Mars,” they will now see something like, “Mars: 4.2K people are talking about this.”

Users will be able to hover over a topic to automatically display a story, which is also determined by an algorithm. Comments about the topic will also be available, as they are now.

The company says that humans will still be involved with choosing the stories that appear in the feed to begin with, which ensures a topic is tied to a current news event.

“At the heart of all this drama is the fact that consumer companies like Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat are all walking a fine line between being a neutral platform to host news, and a subjective media company that creates it,” the technology website Recode wrote Friday. “Facebook and Twitter, for example, both use algorithms to surface some user posts, but suppress others. Those algorithms are human-generated, and thus inherently biased. […] So humans impact what you do and do not see on these services, and the challenge, especially for Facebook, is making it clear how involved these humans actually are.”


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