Facebook is giving media outlets more control over which news stories it surfaces


Mark Zuckerberg happy

Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


Facebook hasn't given up on Trending, its news section that came under fire last year for allegedly suppressing right-leaning publishers.

After making Trending less reliant on human editors in August, Facebook announced on Wednesday that it's making changes to give media outlets more control over which stories are surfaced to the social network's 1.8 billion users:

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  • Trending topics will be determined by the number of publishers that post articles about the same news story, not how many people are talking about a news story. "This should surface trending topics quicker, be more effective at capturing a broader 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," Facebook vice president of product management Will Cathcart said in a statement.

Screen Shot 2017 01 25 at 11.48.09 AM

Facebook screenshot

The current Trending topics shows how many people are talking about a news story, not how many publishers have covered it.

  • Each trending topic will feature a headline from a publisher, not just a general topic name. Facebook used to show headlines from news outlets until it switched to showing generic topic names, like "McDonalds" or "Mars," last August. So this is a reversal back to the way Trending originally worked. Facebook says the headlines it picks are based on "the engagement around the article on Facebook, the engagement around the publisher overall, and whether other articles are linking to it."
  • The same trending topics are shown to everyone in the same region. The section used to be customized to each Facebook user. This is another move on Facebook's part to make Trending more of a universal, authoritative news aggregator.



The old Trending topics design vs. the new one.


While Facebook fired its human editors after the conservative news fiasco last year, a spokesperson told Business Insider that its quality review team is still responsible for making sure topics "correspond to real-world events and that the product does not contain duplicate topics or spam."

Facebook has been working to rebuild its reputation with news publishers after it was widely criticized for helping spread fake news around the U.S. presidential election. The company recently started working with third-party fact checkers like Snopes to weed out dubious news stories, and it recently hired former NBC anchor Campbell Brown to be its head of news partnerships.

Facebook also announced The Facebook Journalism Project earlier this month, a group of initiatives designed to make sure "that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive."

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