Facebook Tweaks Trending, No Longer Personalized

Facebook is making some big changes to its Trending feature, the social giant announced on Wednesday.

News stories will now be accompanied by their respective sources, and, more notably, Facebook is promising to show the same list of stories to people in the same geographical regions.  

“The list of which topics are trending on Facebook will no longer be personalized based on someone’s interests,” Will Cathcart, VP of Product Management at Facebook, notes in a new blog post.

Additionally, Facebook is promising an improved system to determine what is trending at any given moment.

“Previously, topics may have trended due to high engagement on Facebook around a single post or article,” Cathcart said. “We will now look at the number of publishers that are posting articles on Facebook about the same topic, and the engagement around that group of articles.”

The change is intended to surface trending topics more quickly, as well as be more effective at capturing a broader range of news and events from around the world. It should “also help ensure that trending topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets,” he added.

After clicking on a topic in the feature, users will still be taken to a personalized results page, which includes additional sources and posts about that topic -- rather than a particular publisher’s Facebook page or Web site.

The changes are expected to begin rolling out this week, and should be available to all U.S. users within a month.

Last year, conservative critics accused Facebook of favoring left-leaning news stories in Trending topics. 

In particular, Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, released a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg in which he demanded the network clarify its content review practices.

Along with an internal investigation, Zuckerberg hosted a meeting with prominent conservatives, last spring.

Following its investigation, Facebook seemed to acknowledge that Trending topics was for a time influenced by liberal bias.

“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, wrote in a letter to Thune.

Last August, Facebook officially automated the creation of Trending topics.

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