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Facebook is ditching humans from its trending topics

Engadget Engadget 26/08/2016 Brittany Vincent
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Facebook made the news a few months ago after claims surfaced via Gizmodo that the social network was keeping certain conservative news content from hitting the site's Trending Topics section.

Today, Facebook made the announcement that humans would no longer be writing special descriptions for the stories that appear in the site's Trending Topics area seen on the top right of your Facebook profile. While Facebook employees will remain to choose which stories appear in this section, they'll no longer write small captions to go with the topics.

Instead, a special algorithm will pull excerpts from the articles themselves to be placed within the Trending Topics section. There won't be a special story description per se, but a "simplified topic," as Facebook attests, as well as the number of people currently discussing the topic on Facebook itself.

You'll be able to hover over the topic or click on it to see what others are saying about it, just like you can currently, but there'll be a news story automatically pulled for you to investigate as well. Facebook attests these stories will be ranked algorithmically and based on mentions and a "sharp increase" in them over a short period of time. It's also personalized, Facebook says, based on the Pages you like, your location, the other trending topics you've looked at, and everything currently trending on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the human team will still be vetting which topics appear in the section to begin with, which as Recode attests, this does tend to place a bias on the news that's selected to appear. Facebook's official stance on the matter is that there was "no evidence of systematic bias" found after investigating the matter.

"Facebook is a platform for all ideas, and we're committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary about a variety of topics," the official blog post says. The changes should be rolling out soon.

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