By Yasmeen Abutaleb
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc <FB.O> changed its popular “Trending” feature, which shows users the most-talked about topics of the day, to make it more automated and further eliminate the potential for human bias, the company wrote in a blog post on Friday.
The update is Facebook’s latest attempt in recent months to stress its neutrality as its influence grows.
The feature came under scrutiny in May after a news report alleged it suppressed conservative news, which prompted a demand from Republican members of the U.S. Congress for more transparency. Facebook said an internal probe found no evidence of bias.
The Trending feature shows users the most-talked about stories and topics on the top right-hand corner of Facebook’s home page with one-sentence descriptions. To eliminate the potential for bias, Facebook said it would no longer rely on editors to write descriptions for the topics and would instead show users the topic and how many people are discussing it.
Facebook said in an e-mailed statement that the composition of its Trending team would focus more on technical expertise since it no longer needed editors to write descriptions. The company did not say whether it was laying off employees.
Facebook maintains it is a neutral platform, but its political influence has come under scrutiny, especially as its user base swells. It has 1.7 billion people on its social network, and studies have shown it has the power to influence people’s behavior, ranging from registering as organ donors to registering to vote.
After the May news report first surfaced, Facebook penned a lengthy blog post explaining how the Trending feature works, the first time it had done so. Less than two weeks later, the company said it changed some procedures and outlined those changes in an effort to be more transparent.
(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Dan Grebler)