Facebook to Revamp ‘Trending Topics’ Feature to Reduce Bias Risk – WSJ

Facebook told a U.S. senator that an internal investigation had found “no evidence of systematic political bias” against conservatives in its trending topics tool, but that it will revamp how the feature works.

Source: Facebook to Revamp ‘Trending Topics’ Feature to Reduce Bias Risk – WSJ

I think the steps Facebook is taking to prevent bias is interesting and will no doubt influence the controls developed by other social networks that provide similar services.

I find this quote interesting:

“I think this is a good step,” said Brent Bozell, president of conservative media watchdog the Media Research Center, in a statement. “Facebook was relying on a preponderance of liberal and leftist ‘news’ organs. By not relying on any specific news outlets, Facebook returns to its neutral roots.”

The quote assumes fairness requires equal presentation of two sides of a story. I caution that this is always true. (Please don’t read too much into the fact that I am being critical of a viewpoint put forward by a conservative. It’s the quote that is in the article, and thus presents the opportunity to raise the issue.) If you were reporting on the holocaust, you might put a holocaust denier on your program, but you wouldn’t give him/her equal time as the other aspects of your program (unless your program was about holocaust deniers, in which case you still might not give them equal time). Giving every viewpoint an equal portion of time may be balanced, but it may not be fair. It’s important not to confuse the two. In some cases, they may be mutually exclusive.

In this specific quote, Bozell (probably) makes Facebook quite happy with the last sentence. Since Facebook will rely solely on what is trending on its own site, the news should reflect the views of Facebook users. If they tend to be more liberal, and thus post, like, or whatever, more liberal news stories, those stories will likely trend more often. Of course, it could be the other way around as well. Whoever is the loser may want a more “balanced” approach. 😉

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