Social Media

Facebook announces updates to Trending feature to help combat fake news

By Kyle O'Brien | Creative Works Editor

January 25, 2017 | 4 min read

Facebook has announced three updates to its Trending feature, which shows popular topics being discussed on the social media platform.

Facebook adds new video metrics and will be audited by MRC

Facebook announces updates to Trending feature to help combat fake news

The blog post on the site, by Will Cathcart, VP of product management, states that the updates mean:

  • Trending topics will now feature a publisher headline below each topic name
  • An improved system to determine what is trending
  • Everyone in the same region will see the same topics

This announcement comes not long after Facebook received negative press for its handling of “fake news” and hoaxes, especially during and after the election. Founder Mark Zuckerberg came out with a blog post defending the site but saying it does not want any hoaxes on Facebook and that the company will continue to research how to combat them.

The rumors of Facebook posting hoaxes also caused 40% of marketers to say they plan to introduce Facebook Audits.

The changes noted by Cathcart will begin rolling out today and will be available to everyone in the US in the coming weeks. He wrote that Facebook is listening to people’s feedback and will continue to make improvements in order to “provide a valuable Trending experience.”

One change is the displaying of a headline from a publisher’s article about the topic. The headline that appears will be automatically selected based on a combination of factors, including the engagement around the article on Facebook, the engagement around the publisher overall, and whether other articles are linking to it. Once a topic is clicked on, viewers will be taken to a personalized results page that includes extra sources and posts.

Publisher Headlines on Facebook

The company will also update how topics are identified as trending.

“Previously, topics may have trended due to high engagement on Facebook around a single post or article. With today’s update, 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. 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,” wrote Cathcart.

Everyone will also see the same topics in the same region, rather than being personalized based on someone’s interests, which is designed to help make sure people do not miss important topics being discussed on the platform, and is also an answer to people circulating bad information or “fake news.”

The Facebook post also had a short Q&A about Trending and the spread of fake news.

"Today’s update may also help prevent hoaxes and fake news from appearing in Trending because the updated system identifies groups of articles shared on Facebook instead of relying solely on mentions of a topic," wrote Cathcart.

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