Make us your home page
Instagram

Facebook drops news outlet input in 'trending topics' review

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the April 12 keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. Facebook said Monday that 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. [Associated Press]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the April 12 keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. Facebook said Monday that 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. [Associated Press]

LOS ANGELES — 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.

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

The move comes less than a week after Facebook CEO 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 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 Facebook 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.

"It is impossible to fully exclude the possibility that, over the years of the feature's existence, a specific reviewer took isolated actions with an improper motive," the company said.

Thune said in a statement that 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, president of the conservative Media Research Center, 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," Bozell said in a statement.

Facebook drops news outlet input in 'trending topics' review 05/24/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 8:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]