The allegations of political bias against Facebook led to an investigation, following which the social networking giant has made several changes to its Trending Topics. In a newsroom post on Monday, Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, detailed the changes.
What changes did Facebook make?
In the post, Stretch said the network will no longer rely on a select list of news outlets and websites as a way to automatically nominate topics for the trending feature. The “Media 1K” list of feeds, which was used with an algorithm to surface potential trending topics, will be eliminated, Stretch said.
Also the ability to add an “importance level” to a topic based on its prominence in a top ten list of media sources will be taken off. For all its reviewers, Facebook is planning to add refresher training and has pledged to add more information to its help center about how the Trending Topics feature is populated.
“These improvements and safeguards are designed not only to ensure that Facebook remains a platform that is open and welcoming to all groups and individuals, but also to restore any loss of trust in the Trending Topics feature,” the general counsel said.
Gizmodo heard from an anonymous source that Facebook’s news curators had received instructions to artificially inject selected stories into Facebook’s “trending topics” list. Following this, the company launched an investigation earlier this month. Desktop users see the trending topics in the upper right-hand side of the Facebook Newsfeed, while on the app, they are visible after the user taps the search bar.
No evidence of any wrongdoing
Stretch said the company has made changes to Trending Topics, but it did not find any evidence in its investigation of any systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics.
He added that the investigation could not succeed at substantiating specific allegations of “politically-motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.” However, he also said the investigation could not completely deny the possibility of an individual straying from the policies or the potential for “unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg not only led the investigation but also welcomed leading conservatives to Facebook’s campus to discuss the issue. In a Facebook post last week, Zuckerberg said the success of the community depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they like.