As it continues to fight the spread of fake news, Facebook announced major changes to its Trending Topics section Wednesday.
The section, which features popular topics being shared on the social media site, will begin to look a lot newsier. Headlines written by news organizations will be featured below each topic along with the publication’s URL.
Facebook will also stop highlighting topics that sourced a single article or post – a major step in avoiding fake reports. Instead, an algorithm will identify trending stories by the number of media organizations reporting on a single topic and the engagement on those articles.
Will Cathcart, Facebook’s vice president of product management, wrote in a statement that this could help the section discover breaking news faster and ensure “trending topics reflect real world events.”
Facebook will also remove personalization from the section, a huge deviation from its tailored news feed. Instead, the same trending topics will be visible to all users in the same region. Ideally, Cathcart writes, the change will mean people don’t miss important news that doesn’t appear in their regular news feed.
The Trending section has been a major point of contention with Facebook this last year. In May, Gizmodo published a report that the social media’s news curators suppressed conservative news, potentially influencing the election. In response, Facebook automated more of the system and removed topic descriptions written by staff. The social media company has also battled reports that it spread fake news during the election, including a story that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump. Part of the goal of Wednesday’s update is to reduce the chances of false reports being published in Trending Topics.
“Trending uses a variety of signals from News Feed, including when people report news as fake or spam, to help prevent fake news, hoaxes or spam,” Cathcart wrote. “Today’s update may also help prevent hoaxes and fake news from appearing in Trending because the updated system identifies groups of articles shared on Facebook instead of relying solely on mentions of a topic.”
The changes will begin rolling out on Facebook on Wednesday and expand to all users in the U.S. in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the company announced it was expanding its tools to identify false news to Canada.