Face­book makes trend­ing news fea­ture more au­to­mated

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INSIGHT -

FACE­BOOK said last week it is fur­ther au­tomat­ing its “trend­ing” sto­ries fea­ture, a move that will scale back hu­man in­put to pre­vent per­sonal bias from in­flu­enc­ing which sto­ries get high­lighted. The so­cial media gi­ant will rely more heav­ily on an al­go­rithm to op­er­ate the fea­ture – which lists what news or events are hot top­ics – no longer re­quir­ing peo­ple to write de­scrip­tions, ac­cord­ing to a Face­book blog post.

The fea­ture prompted con­tro­versy ear­lier this year, with crit­ics al­leg­ing that Face­book’s news cu­ra­tors were de­lib­er­ately omit­ting sto­ries from po­lit­i­cally conservative out­lets, al­le­ga­tions the com­pany de­nied.

Face­book said re­ly­ing more heav­ily on soft­ware will al­low the fea­ture to cover a wider scale, while less­en­ing the risk that per­sonal bias could ma­nip­u­late the list of trend­ing top­ics.

“We looked into these claims and found no ev­i­dence of sys­tem­atic bias,” Face­book re­it­er­ated in its blog post re­cently, but added that “mak­ing these changes to the prod­uct al­lows our team to make fewer in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions about top­ics.”

With the change, in­stead of see­ing story sum­maries in the trend­ing list, users will sim­ply see top­ics and the num­ber of peo­ple talk­ing about them.

Let­ting a cur­sor hover over a topic will show “an au­to­mat­i­cally se­lected orig­i­nal news story with an ex­cerpt pulled di­rectly from the top ar­ti­cle it­self.”

Hu­mans will still be in­volved in the process to en­sure that top­ics are real- world news and not based on an in­ter­net trend like # lunch.

Face­book in May made changes aimed at keep­ing po­lit­i­cal bias out of its “trend­ing” sto­ries list even though an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed no ev­i­dence that it was an is­sue.

“Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed no ev­i­dence of sys­tem­atic po­lit­i­cal bias in the se­lec­tion or promi­nence of sto­ries in­cluded in the Trend­ing Top­ics fea­ture,” Face­book gen­eral coun­sel Colin Stretch said in a let­ter re­spond­ing to a query from Repub­li­can US Sen­a­tor John Thune, who chairs the com­merce com­mit­tee.

“In fact, our anal­y­sis in­di­cated that the rates of ap­proval of conservative and lib­eral top­ics are vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal in Trend­ing Top­ics.”

Face­book up­dated ter­mi­nol­ogy in its guide­lines to be clearer and gave re­view­ers re­fresher train­ing that em­pha­sized con­tent de­ci­sions may not be based on pol­i­tics or ide­ol­ogy, the let­ter said.

The re­view team be­came sub­ject to more over­sight and con­trols, and Face­book stop re­ly­ing on lists of ex­ter­nal web­sites and news out­lets to as­sess the im­por­tance of top­ics in sto­ries.

“We've built Face­book to be a plat­form for all ideas,” Face­book founder Mark Zucker­berg said on his so­cial net­work page af­ter a meet­ing at the com­pany's Cal­i­for­nia head­quar­ters to dis­cuss the al­le­ga­tions about anti- conservative bias. Zucker­berg called the meet­ing af­ter technology news out­let Giz­modo re­ported anony­mous al­le­ga­tions that Face­book was de­lib­er­ately omit­ting ar­ti­cles with conservative view­points from the sidebar that lists pop­u­lar sto­ries. – AFP Re­laxnews

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