Today, Facebook announced that human curators will no longer write short descriptions that accompany trending topics on the site. Instead, the company will rely on an algorithmic process to “pull excerpts directly from stories”. The company also said it will stop using human curators to sort through the news.
“A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time,” Facebook said in a statement. “This is something we always hoped to do but we are making these changes sooner given the feedback we got from the Facebook community earlier this year.”
The changes come three months after a Gizmodo report spotlighted Facebook curators who said that they observed colleagues suppressing conservative news. Following our report, and a Congressional investigation, Facebook conducted an internal investigation (albeit, one with myriad flaws) and said it found “no bias“.
In Facebook’s response to the congressional investigation, Facebook did say that “We could not reconstruct reliable data logs from before December 2014, so were unable to examine each of the reviewer decisions from that period.” The timetable directly overlaps with the period that was reported in our stories.
It’s important to note that Facebook originally claimed its Trending Topics section was sorted by an algorithm. The company seems to have misled Recode’s Kurt Wagner in a story that has now been heavily edited to reflect a more accurate representation of what was happening. Before our series of reports, Facebook publicly claimed Trending Topics were “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook”.
As for the human curators Facebook will no longer be using, which at the time of Gizmodo’s initial reports numbered in the dozens, it’s unclear whether they have been let go or moved to other projects.