Facebook has become, among other things, a source for news stories. Its trending section especially is, at least in theory, an aggregate of what everyone on the site is talking about. Except some employees have come forward claiming that the Trending section is sometimes nothing of the sort, and that Facebook is manipulating the news. But is it? Or is this just another news site, doing its job?
The claims — from former employees interviewed by Gizmodo — break down into three categories, all varying degrees of troubling. The first is that Facebook suppressed conservative news stories, the second that it suppressed news about itself, and the third is that it outright manipulated the Trending news in varying ways. But what’s left on the table is whether this is serious, or a matter of semantics.
Trending sections on any website tend to be filtered in some way for two reasons. The first is to prevent marketing departments and attention-seekers from gaming the system to exploit websites for free advertising. The second is that the raw data is often fundamentally a mess. People don’t just talk about one topic in a Facebook post, or use the same terms to discuss a topic, so the raw data is often the same story told seven different ways. At the very least, redundancies need to be trimmed.