Facebook changing guidelines for trending topics after probe

2016-05-24 06:59 - Sarah Frier
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Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg


San Francisco - Facebook is changing how it determines which news stories are “trending,” after recent allegations of political bias in its selections.

The company said it will no longer require stories to appear on sites considered news leaders, including the New York Times and Buzzfeed, as that requirement could lead to bias.

Facebook also will stop using its curated RSS feed for news and a list of 1 000 sites it deemed trustworthy, according to a report issued Monday.

Facebook found no evidence of systemic bias in its investigation, but said it couldn’t “fully exclude the possibility that, over the years of the feature’s existence, a specific reviewer took isolated actions with an improper motive,” according to General Counsel Colin Stretch.

The social network, which has 1.65 billion users, is responding to an anonymously sourced report in Gizmodo on May 9 alleging the company’s team of human editors leaned toward liberal sources in selecting stories for the trending news topics feature. That prompted an inquiry from US Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, asking for details on the process for trending stories. Facebook conducted an investigation over the course of two weeks.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with political conservatives last week to discuss their concerns about the news feature.

“Facebook was relying on a preponderance of liberal and leftist ‘news’ organisations,” said Brent Bozell, president of Media Research Centre and a participant in the meeting with Zuckerberg.

“By not relying on any specific news outlets, Facebook returns to its neutral roots. This is good for everyone on that platform.”

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