Facebook Are Moving Trending Topics Further Into the Spotlight

News bias is still one of the biggest issues Facebook are contending with. For a while, it seemed like they were content to leave the issue unaddressed and carry on waving the 'tailored content' flag, but in recent months they've taken steps to try and break out of that cycle. They recently tested out the rocket icon to allow users to look at content from pages they don't follow, and now Trending Topics is getting a new coat of paint.

On the desktop, you will now be able to see a range of different articles by different publishers on each topic, rather than just one. On mobile, the three top trending topics will appear perpetually at the top of the News Feed, rather than only showing up when you search for something. This will mean that mobile users are always aware of the top trending stories, rather than having to actively seek them out.


Once you select a trending topic, the different articles will be presented to you in a carousel, rather than a drop down list, making the whole experience a bit more active and intuitive than just a list of hyperlinks to different publications. A second carousel of relevant videos also appears at the bottom, and the background of the page is directly related to the topic.

Facebook have said that the carousels aren't personalised in any way, everyone gets the same list of publications. This opens up a certain risk of users seeing more contrary content than they normally would have, depending on the subject, but some might argue that that's actually a good thing, since it increases the chance of users engaging with content that they don't actually agree with.

Of course, there's contrary and then there's biased content, and Facebook haven't put any information forward about how exactly the top sources are selected. In some circumstances, this could lead to biased, misleading, sensationalist or, dare I say it, fake stories making it onto the carousel. Facebook have been very carefully refitting their algorithms to deal with this kind of thing, but it might not be enough.

This is the second time Facebook have shifted the spotlight away from singular publishers and towards topics. Last month they introduced the ability to follow topics, opening up a range of content from different publishers about the same kinds of stories. Mark Zuckerberg and others have repeatedly argued that Facebook doesn't actually have an 'echo chamber' issue, but updates like these certainly don't support that claim. In either case, expect more 'topic-driven' features to appear on Facebook soon enough.

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