Technology & Science

Facebook will stop relying on news outlets to determine Trending Topics

Facebook says it is dropping its reliance on news outlets to help determine what gets posted as a Trending Topic on the giant social network following a backlash over a report saying it suppressed conservative views.

Company says internal investigation found no evidence of conservative bias

Facebook says an internal investigation has found no evidence of liberal bias on its Trending Topics feature. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Facebook says it is dropping its reliance on news outlets to help determine what gets posted as a Trending Topic on the giant social network following a backlash over a report saying it suppressed conservative views.

Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch outlined this and other reforms in a 12-page letter sent Monday to Republican Senator John Thune, chairman of the commerce committee, which oversees the internet and consumer protections.

Facebook is also changing the way news outlets factor into its algorithm to determine Trending Topics, saying it will "no longer rely on lists of external websites and news outlets to identify, validate or assess the importance of particular topics."

The company said it is also "removing the ability to assign an 'importance level' to a topic through assessment of the topic's prominence on the top-10 list of news outlets."

The company found that topics could be temporarily suppressed if news outlets weren't reporting on them enough.

Despite the changes, Facebook said it found no evidence of systemic political bias in its Trending Topics. 

The company said its internal investigation revealed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as Trending Topics at "virtually identical rates" and it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically-motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.

"Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies," Stretch wrote in a company blogpost.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg met last week with more than a dozen conservative politicians and media personalities to discuss issues of trust in the social network.

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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