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Behind the scenes of Facebook's "trending news" project

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
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Behind the scenes of Facebook's "trending news" project

Gizmodo spoke to five former “news curators”, members of Facebook’s “trending news” project, whose work consisted of choosing the included topics and news items displayed on Facebook, and writing the headlines and summaries. They describe some potentially worrying elements of the operation.

For instance, news curators were told to select articles from a list of preferred media outlets and would regularly avoid others, although there was no explicit ban. Moreover, they were told not to mention Twitter by name, and instead refer to “social media” in a more general manner.

News curators can also “deactivate” (blacklist) trending topics that don’t get sufficient coverage in traditional news media, and even if the article doesn’t report on abuse of this capacity, the procedure is not clearly specified. Finally, one news curator said they ended up feeling that they were mainly training an algorithm through their work, and would eventually get replaced by software – it appears that Facebook has already started reduced the project team.

Although the article doesn’t include major revelations of explicit misuse of Facebook’s power, it's likely to amplify voices calling Facebook to be more open about its processes and practices, especially as they relate to news distribution on its platform.

Author

Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2016-05-04 15:26

Author information

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