Company responds to earlier criticism that selections were
biased against conservative political topics
Facebook Inc. is reducing human involvement in how it displays its Trending Topics after a controversy earlier this year over whether editors working for the social network operator silenced conservative news.
After conducting an internal investigation and saying it found no bias, Facebook is still retooling the trending news section to rely more on computers than humans. Instead of showing a headline and a summary, the trending topics will instead show an algorithmically selected topic, like “Olympics,” as well as the number of people talking about it, the company said Friday in a blog post.
Facebook said it will stop using a team of contractors that sorted through the news, some of whom anonymously leaked concerns about bias to the news site Gizmodo. “In this new version of Trending we no longer need to draft topic descriptions or summaries, and as a result we are shifting to a team with an emphasis on operations and technical skillsets,” Facebook said in a statement.
The Gizmodo report in May triggered backlash from conservatives. Some pundits were invited to Facebook headquarters to meet with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who worked to reassure them that the social media site had no political agenda. The company also released results of its internal probe publicly and published guidelines for its news feed, which emphasized that it doesn’t favor certain political ideas.
Algorithms, which are written and tweaked by humans, may have bias. Facebook said the new, more-technical solution will still require some human intervention, to make sure mundane topics selected by its software, like #lunch, don’t become trending news.
“Still, making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” the company said in its statement. “Facebook is a platform for all ideas.”
August 26, 2016