Humans are now officially less involved with what is popular on the world’s biggest social network, as Facebook Trending Topics descriptions have been removed, and the company is using algorithms to cull on-hover summaries of popular news content for each story.
Real-life people will still have some involvement with Facebook’s Trending Topics section, to ensure that oft-used hashtags and phrases don’t clutter what is meant to be a place to discover breaking & popular news of the day. However, Facebook’s goal, according to them, is to making Trending available for as many users as possible—something algorithms allow for, but human interaction simply does not.
Where Facebook Trending Topics descriptions formerly sat below each topic, now each trend will show the number of people actively discussing it (similar to how it is shown on Twitter):
The algorithmically-generated descriptions will now only be available when a user hovers-over the trending topic on desktop. The below figure, again provided by Facebook, shows how this new feature looks:
The move comes after allegations were surfaced by Gizmodo earlier this year that Facebook employees were purposely suppressing conservative articles from appearing as trending—though, not surprisingly, Facebook goes out of its way to say this isn’t the reason for the change, noting:
Earlier this year, we shared more information about Trending in response to questions about alleged political bias in the product. We looked into these claims and found no evidence of systematic bias. Still, making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics. Facebook is a platform for all ideas, and we’re committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary about a variety of topics.
As you may recall, Facebook was called in front of the Senate not 24 hours following Gizmodo’s report. The company has denied any wrongdoing.