Facebook changes Trending Topics after criticism

The social network adds a more automated design that strips human-written descriptions from its list of popular topics, following months of criticism over how it displayed news stories.

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Here's what Trending Topics will look like now.


In Silicon Valley, maybe a computer really can do it better.

Facebook is changing up the way it shows you trending topics, the company said in a blog post Friday. Instead of describing the topic with a headline, the new automated format simply highlights the trend -- a word, phrase, hashtag, etc. -- without any frills or fuss. Anyone who wants to know what the hubbub is about can hover the cursor to pop up a small window with an associated story and source.

In place of the description, Facebook will now tell you how many people are talking about a given topic.

Why do this? Because, behind the scenes, there's been a real-life person at Facebook writing up those descriptions, and that takes time. Fully automating the process lifts that burden; instead of Facebook employees typing blurbs, a computer program can surface those essentials.

Facebook's also faced criticism over its trending topics service after twin stories from the tech blog Gizmodo alleged that the Trending topics team was allowing their political opinions to affect their judgment of what was and wasn't displayed on the list seen by its 1.7 billion active users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company found no wrongdoing after an investigation into the issue, but that hasn't stopped many political blogs from claiming they're still being treated unfairly by the social networking giant.

Perhaps to avoid perception this move was in reaction to the controversy, Facebook says this plan's been in the works for a while. It also said trending topics are still personalized based on your tastes, and still relevant to world events.