Facebook to "Dehumanize" Trending Topics Selection

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After the US Senate Commerce Committee questioned Facebook on potential Trending Topics bias earlier this month, representatives of the most popular social network on the planet came up with a response to those allegations. As the committee's chairman John Thune revealed yesterday, Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch with whom he had met last week has been extremely "forthcoming" with him regarding the way in which Facebook picks and chooses its Trending Topics and his employer has not only conducted an investigation on the matter but is also planning on making changes to the controversial feature in order to avoid this type of scenarios in the future. For the uninitiated, Facebook has recently been accused of censoring certain conservative news sources within the Trending Topics feed of its social network.

As Thune revealed, the existing system is not entirely automated and relies on human judgment in many of its instances. First of all, this confirms the validity of documents which The Guardian has leaked earlier this month, according to which Facebook used editors in order to run the Trending Topics feature of its social network. Secondly, the company has apparently realized the error of its ways as Stretch has convinced Thune that changes in this regard are imminent and Facebook is already looking to "dehumanize" the entire process of turning something into a Facebook Trending Topic, i.e. make it rely on algorithms more heavily. Nevertheless, Stretch stressed that even though Facebook has conducted a two-week internal investigation of the political bias allegations, the thereof has yielded "no evidence of systematic political bias."

It's worth noting that Facebook wasn't in any way obliged to investigate the political bias claims and nobody can actually force it to implement the aforementioned changes into its Trending Topics feature. As Thune himself explained, just like all other private companies, Facebook is free to promote its own political views. Regardless of that, it's no surprise that the company took the recent media accusations and subsequent Senate Commerce Committee's questioning rather seriously as it currently serves around 1.65 billion users and presumably isn't looking to anger any of them by – intentionally or not – censoring them. Facebook has yet to reveal the specifics of the upcoming dehumanization changes to its Trending Topics feature.

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