Facebook's trending new stories have become news stories themselves in the recent weeks. They were only introduced in 2014, but they already have enough controversy for Gizmodo to do a special report claiming that former "news curators" manipulated the results of trending news stories, pushing more liberal stories to the top of the charts and hiding conservative content away.
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There were documents revealed that showed the leak and detailed that human editors were heavily involved in the selection of stories. However, the company responded with its own updated version.
People think that human intervention in trending topics is a problem because for so long it was believed that they were determined by algorithms. "The topics you see are based on a number of factors including engagement, timeliness, Pages you've liked and your location," an explanation of Trending Topics says.
Facebook has denied that those who were working on the team selected news based on their own political opinions. "Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period," the company said in a blog post accompanying the publication of its editorial guidelines.
CEO mark Zuckerberg has also commenting on the debate, and said that his staff would conduct a "full investigation" into how Trending Topics are managed. "We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it," he wrote on Facebook.
Those who are working on these topics are split into three teams that curate, rank, and post the content, according to the guidelines provided by Facebook.
The team is responsible for finding topics that are based on events in the real world. "We provide context to help people understand the trend and metadata to inform the algorithms that target trends," the document reads.
"The topics you see are based on a number of factors including engagement, timeliness, Pages you've liked and your location"
A "topic detection team" then takes over and is responsible for surfacing "pending topics" will soon be trending. Another team will provide ranked feeds when the stories are accepted.
Another section of the story breaks down what happens when a major story breaks - calling them "Holy S**t stories" that happen only once in a blue moon.
Facebook uses the leading websites to gather its news, including BBC News, CNN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC News, The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and BuzzFeed News.
Sometimes staff will rewrite topics and give them "custom topic names."
"Write a custom topic name for breaking or planned news events that are expected to persist for several days," the document, provided by The Guardian, explains.
There is also blacklisted content - basically spammy stories or duplicate events.
Stories with insufficient sources also shouldn't be included: "Use this when we think a topic is connected to a real-world event but the available information is not sufficient to characterize the topic with confidence," Facebook's guidelines explain.
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Just last night, Mark Zuckerberg addressed the changes that his team will make to avoid suppression of conservative articles. In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said that he does "take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation" into the allegations published in Gizmodo, but that "we have found no evidence that this report is true." He added that he wants to ensure that "our platform stays as open as possible," and toward that end, "in the coming weeks, I'll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view."