Facebook Trending Topics Loses Human Editors
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The social network announced the change in a blog post today, three months after it faced outrage over claims that its trending topics editors routinely suppressed mentions of politically conservative news topics in the U.S.
The advantage of relying on algorithms over human editors, Facebook says, is that it can enable the Trending Topics feature for users worldwide, instead of limiting it to just countries like the U.S.
"Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand," according to the blog post. "A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time."
The editors of the trending section are not Facebook employees, but third-party contractors hired by Accenture under a contract with the world's largest social network. In a May letter to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Facebook said it would reduce its reliance on the team by no longer asking it to search RSS feeds from online media outlets.
The change to eliminate human editors completely was always part of the plan, according to today's blog post, but Facebook accelerated it "given the feedback we got from the Facebook community earlier this year."
With the human editors' departure, the trending news section will only display a topic, like "#PhelpsFace" or "NASA," instead of a headline and a short description. Facebook says there will still be humans who check on the section to ensure that topics like "lunch," which people talk about every day, will not be flagged as trending.