Facebook Changes ‘Trending’ Section After Accusations of Political Bias

A fake story popped up in Facebook’s trending news section today, three days after the social network announced it would eliminate the editors who curate and write headlines for trending topics.

After the change, Facebook users could still hover above a trending topic and get a pop-up description. The company claims that the retooling of the section will augment its scalability and personalization. According to a blog post they put out on the 26th, Trending stories would become “automated” and ‘will no longer require people to write descriptions for trending topics’.

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.

Fox News called this “an egregious mistake” and directed requests to Facebook.

The Guardian reports that under its old, human-assisted guidelines, Facebook trends had been monitored to weed out potentially offensive or inappropriate items, and news curators stuck to a list of trusted media sources.

Immediately that change ran into problems – when the robots brought up stories that were entirely fake alongside others about sex acts and swear words.

They don’t say it explicitly, but Facebook is nearly certainly referring to the fallout from Gizmodo’s reporting on the team that suggested (among many other things) that the Trending list was “biased” against conservative topics and news sources.

Megyn Kelly was not fired of course, did not announce that she is a Clinton supporter, and is defiantly not a traitor to conservative values.

Although Facebook says it always meant to remove humans from the Trending process as much as possible, the changes Friday were accelerated. The story was removed when Facebook learned it was factually inaccurate, and the site vowed to better weed out fake and satirical news in the future.

“Trending was created to help people discover interesting and relevant conversations happening on Facebook, about breaking news and events from around the world”, said the social network. ‘Over the weekend, this topic met those conditions and the Trending review team accepted it thinking it was a real-world topic. Despite that, humans are still responsible for deciding what topics are worthy of hitting Facebook’s trending area, but an individual user’s experience will vary based on a number of factors.

Facebook is going to rely less on human editors to manage its ‘Trending feature’.

In its blog post, the social networking giant said it looked into the claims and found no evidence of systematic bias.

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