Facebook already wiped away the “human” aspect of its trending topics section. It no longer includes brief curated descriptions of a trending topic, but instead lists just the topic itself linked to stories about it. Facebook made the change to eliminate human influence on how a story is perceived, instead letting pure data-driven info stand on its own. The social media giant has faced criticism for its trending topics, and questions about bias being present in the selections. Facebook says it’s all in the algorithm, which in turn causes accusers to ask whether the algorithm itself contains inherent bias.
If Silicon Valley, and Facebook also, is a generally liberal-leaning place, then bias (even unintentional) can be expected where humans have a say in selection. Facebook’s removing the human intermediary ostensibly solves the bias problem — if there was one. (Disintermediation is a fave buzzword in tech anyway.) The removal happened after internal Facebook investigations and even a Congressional investigation had been launched about potential bias. But even with the disintermediated solution, the Trending Topics element in Facebook isn’t worth the trouble it causes, asserts a former Facebook News employee. In late August Digiday interviewed an ex-Facebook trending news worker, who said: “I think they are just going to get rid of the product altogether, because there is going to be backlash when people who do use the tool realize that the quality has gone down — unless there are severe algorithmic changes that improve the quality of the topics.” But then again, that might be the ex-Facebooker’s human bias speaking. Maybe the algorithm all by itself is what people want.