Facebook to further automate 'trending' feature

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook has said 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 Friday, 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.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'Facebook to further automate 'trending' feature'. Print Edition | Subscribe