Facebook’s reputation took a hit from news publishers (well, and everybody else) after being widely criticized for helping to spread fake news around the 2016 presidential election. Working with third-party fact checkers like Snopes, Facebook hopes to weed out dubious news stories, and former NBC anchor Campbell Brown is now in charge of their news partnerships.

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While reliance on human editors of the Trending section was significantly reduced in the summer of 2016 (the firing of the editors in response to what may well have been fake news itself), there remains a quality review team responsible for making sure that identified topics “correspond to real-world events and that the product does not contain duplicate topics or spam.”

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The most significant changes are:

  • Trending topics will be determined by the number of published articles about the same news story (no longer how many people are talking about it);
  • Topics will include an actual headline from a media outlet, along with the more generic topic name; and
  • Rather than being customized to individual Facebook users, everyone in a region will see the same trending topics in an effort to make Trending appear to be a more universal & authoritative news aggregator.

The jury is out as to whether Facebook’s efforts to make Trending more reliable will accomplish what they hope, but kudos to them for trying. Stay tuned.

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