Facebook Revamps Trending Topics List

John Lister's picture

Facebook is making several changes to its Trending Topics section that, in effect, serves as its news headlines. The changes are designed to make it harder for people to game the system with bogus or intentionally provocative stories.

Trending Topics is not about the stories that appear in the main news feed. They will continue to be decided by how many of the user's friends post, share or comment on links to the relevant web pages. Instead, Trending Topics is a separate list that appears on the right hand side of the page when users are logged in to the Facebook website.

Clicking on the topics listed in this section brings up a package of content on the topic including news articles, photos and videos, and comments posted by Facebook users in general (rather than just by the specific user's friends). It's part of Facebook's efforts - which appear to be somewhat successful - to make the site function as the main way many users get their news.

List No Longer Personalized

The first change is that the list will no longer be personalized with the order tailored to the user's interests - or at least Facebook's perception of their interests. Instead, the same list will appear for all user's in a particular country.

The next change is that the order and selection of topics will no longer be determined solely by how many people have commented on or shared it. That system had been open to abuse with fake stories or those with misleading headlines getting a lot of views and shares even if they weren't necessarily the most "important" news. (Source: businessinsider.com)

Widely Reported Stories Get More Credit

Instead the algorithm will be based much more heavily on how many different news outlets are covering the story. The idea is that this will make it more likely the list will include legitimate stories about real world events. (Source: fb.com)

Finally, Trending Topics will no longer simply list the name or subject that the story is about. Instead there will also be a headline taken from one of the key news reports about the event. The idea is to give more insight into the story. It's also a way to make clear what the specific new development is in stories where the same topic name is likely to show up on the list regularly such as 'Donald Trump' or 'Brexit'.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you ever click on the Trending Topics section? Will the changes improve the reliability and usefulness of the list? Can sites like Facebook ever be an adequate replacement for traditional news sites?

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Dennis Faas's picture

It's good to see Facebook is making these changes to combat fake news (and I'm not just talking about political news) - it's the type of "news" headlines that are purposely written to mislead people in order to get clicks. This in turn generates big revenue for the website receiving the clicks. It's all about gaming the system - let's hope these changes put an end to the abuse!

highprairiest's picture

I am really getting tired of seeing "news" items on that right hand column on my Facebook page that tell me some famous person has died. Today it was Willie Nelson, complete with this photo and the year he was born (1933) and this year (2017). Every day a new one shows up. I never click on any of the links on that part of my FB page, so why do those lying notices keep showing up?

petershaw's picture

I don't have the nuisance of a trending topics section thanks to FB Purity which does a magnificent job of de-crapping what I see on Facebook.