InDaily InDaily

Support independent Journalism Donate Subscribe
Support independent journalism

Facebook cuts news outlets' influence on trending topics

Politics

Facebook says it is dropping its reliance on news outlets to help determine what gets posted as a “trending topic” on the giant social network, a move adopted after a backlash over a report saying it suppressed conservative views.

Comments
Comments Print article

Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch outlined the change in a 12-page letter sent on Monday to Republican senator John Thune, chairman of the commerce committee, which oversees the internet and consumer protections.

The move comes less than a week after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met with Glenn Beck and more than a dozen other conservative commentators to address concerns stemming from a report in the tech blog Gizmodo.

The Gizmodo report, which relied on a single anonymous former Facebook worker with self-described conservative leanings, claimed that Facebook downplays conservative news subjects on its trending feature.

As part of the changes outlined on Monday, Facebook will stop looking to news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and Drudge Report to automatically nominate topics for its trending feature. It also automatically nominates topics based on a spike in user posts about a subject.

“In our meetings last week, we received feedback that any list – even a good one – inherently raises questions of which publications are included versus which are not,” said Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth.

“Based on this feedback, we felt that the best approach would be to clear up this issue by removing these lists entirely and focus on surfacing the conversation on Facebook.”

Trending topics are seen on the right side of the screen on computers, or after tapping on the search bar in a mobile app.

As part of its review, Facebook found that members of the team working on trending topics could temporarily suppress topics if news outlets weren’t reporting on them enough.

But it said it found no evidence of systemic political bias, though it couldn’t discount that a lone wolf might be able to game its system.

Thune said in a statement he found Facebook’s response “encouraging” though it revealed that its trending topics feature “relied on human judgment, and not just an automated process, more than previously acknowledged”.

Brent Bozell, the president of the conservative Media Research Center and who attended last week’s meeting, applauded the change.

“Facebook was relying on a preponderance of liberal and leftist ‘news’ organs. By not relying on any specific news outlets, Facebook returns to its neutral roots,” he said in a statement.

AP

Help our journalists uncover the facts

In times like these InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to donate to InDaily.

Donate here
Powered by PressPatron

Comments

Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

More Politics stories

Loading next article