3 Tweaks to Facebook’s Trending Algorithm: Move Against Fake News

Following media criticism for not featuring the Women’s March on its trending section, Facebook made an announcement on Thursday which explains how it has modified its ‘Trending Section’ in order to build a more legitimate system of disbursing information about popular topics.

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Since surfacing on Facebook in 2014, Trending topics section shows the most popular topics on the billion-strong social media network and now has been tweaked as part of the company’s larger bid to curb fake news from its network.

In the past, Facebook has faced the issue of featuring stories, which lack credible sources and aren’t being covered by mainstream media houses, that end up in its Trending section and in order to establish itself as a legitimate source of news, the social media giant has made certain changes.

“Today we’re announcing three updates to Trending. These changes begin rolling out today and will be available to everyone in the US in the coming weeks. We’re listening to people’s feedback and will continue to make improvements in order to provide a valuable Trending experience,” said Will Cathcart, VP, Product Management.

Topics appearing under the Trending section are picked up by an automated algorithm but is also then reviewed by a team of editors who proofread it for legitimacy and association with real world events.

Changes Made to the Trending Section

As mentioned above, the Trending Section has been tweaked with the following three changes.

Publisher Name and Headline Added to the Topics

Alongwith the normal topic header, the Trending section will also feature one of the headlines about the topic with the publisher’s name below the topic.

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Earlier the publisher name and headline would appear when users would hover over the topic, but it makes more sense to have it displayed alongwith the topic in order to establish the legitimacy of the news.

The headline that appears on the top is usually the one with the most number of engagements but also take into account if the other stories published a link to it — the same way Google News categorises its highly cited article to establish the original source of the news.

Like before, clicking on the topic will take you to a results page which will showcase stories published by other publications on the same topic too.

Algorithm Tweak

Facebook has tweaked its algorithm in order to target a broader sense of implying which topic is legitimate enough to appear in front of people.

Earlier, any topic with high engagement will make it to the Trending list, but now unless a post on the topic has been published by several publishers and has received a high cumulative engagement, then only will that topic appear in Trending section.

“This should surface trending topics quicker, be more effective at capturing a borader range of news and events from around the world and also help ensure that trending topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets,” he added.

Same Region – Same Trends

Syncing Facebook photos to your contacts isn't always as seamless as it should be. | Photo: 10 FACE / Shutterstock.com
10 FACE / Shutterstock.com

Earlier, the Trending list shown was personalised based on an individual’s tastes, but Facebook now will show the same list of Trending topics to people in the same region — designed to bring out the most important topics on the top within a given geo-location.

“Today’s update may also help prevent hoaxes and fake news from appearing in Trending because the updated system identifies groups of articles shared on Facebook instead of relying solely on mentions of a topic,” Cathcart concluded.

Trending is available in US, UK, India, Canada and Australia. The update will first be rolled out for users in US and other countries will receive it in the following weeks.

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