Facebook tweaks its ‘Trending Topics’ to root out fake news

New updates aim to keep fake news off users’ news feeds.

A Facebook User Operations Safety Team worker looks at reviews at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Curating your Facebook news feed, and other practices that can help personalize a user’s Facebook activity can be burdensome process, but the result: Less tabloid magazine, more personal messages and cute pictures from people who are actually your friends. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File
A Facebook User Operations Safety Team worker looks at reviews at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Curating your Facebook news feed, and other practices that can help personalize a user’s Facebook activity can be burdensome process, but the result: Less tabloid magazine, more personal messages and cute pictures from people who are actually your friends. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

Worried that fake news is cluttering your Facebook news feed? Facebook is hoping its latest updates will fix that. The social network began rolling out tweaks to its “Trending Topics” feature, which highlights the most talked about bits of “news” on the platform, to make it more personalized.

Users will now see publisher headlines beneath each topic listed instead. In a blog post announcing the changes, Facebook said, “This was the most requested feature addition since the last update we made to Trending in August.”

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The featured trending article is based on users’ engagement with the article, users’ engagement with the publisher overall, and whether other outlets are linking to the article.

Facebook also made changes to its algorithm to update how the platform selects trending topics. Now, they’ll be limited to articles that are highly published and cited, and everyone in the same region will see the same thing.

“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,” Facebook’s vice president of product Will Cathcart wrote in a post. 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.”

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Facebook’s changes come after months of criticism that its trending topics featured popularized unsubstantiated news reports about the election, possibly aiding President Donald Trump’s win.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally dismissed the idea that fake news found on Facebook influenced voters and the election. But following massive backlash, the social network released a news fact-checking feature in December that alerted users when a link was possibly from an unverified or dubious source.

Facebook has been struggling with the issue of false stories for the better part of the past year, ever since conservative politicians expressed concern that the site was suppressing conservative content in its trending topics section.

Facebook initially denied the claims, saying that the news was picked primarily by an algorithm, not employed news curators. But after continued public criticism from conservatives, the tech giant responded by firing all of its human news editors in favor of a purely algorithmic model.

That resulted in many false reports, such as Fox News firing former anchor Megyn Kelly for supporting then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, rising to the top of the trending topics section. Facebook’s latest updates seem geared towards correcting these past issues.