SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook says it has changed some of the procedures behind its Trending Topics section on Monday, after a news report alleging it suppressed conservative news prompted a US Congressional demand for more transparency.
The social media giant said an internal probe showed no evidence of political bias in the selection of news stories for Trending Topics, a feature that is separate from the main ‘news feed’ where most Facebook users get their news.
But the company said in a blogpost that it was introducing several changes, including elimination of a top-10 list of approved websites, more training and clearer guidelines to help human editors avoid ideological or political bias, and more robust review procedures.
Earlier this month, a former Facebook contractor had accused the company’s editors of deliberately suppressing conservative news. The allegations were reported by technology news website Gizmodo, which did not identify the ex-contractor.
The report led Republican senator John Thune to write a letter demanding that the company explain how it selects news articles for its Trending Topics list. He gave a deadline of May 24.
“Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open internet,” he said.
Two days after Thune’s letter, Facebook published a lengthy blogpost detailing how Trending Topics works even though it rarely discloses such practices.
Previously, it had never discussed the inner workings of the feature, which displays topics and news articles in the top right-hand corner of the desktop homepage for its more than 1.6 billion users.
Facebook said its investigation showed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as trending topics at nearly identical rates.
It said it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.
However, it did not rule out human error in selecting topics.
“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch said.
2 Nepalis in Lhasa jail for smuggling gold
RASUWA — Two Nepali youths are reported to be in a jail in Lhasa of China, on the charge of their involvement in gold smuggling.
Gyal Dorje Tamang of Gosaikunda Rural Municipality-5 in Rasuwa and Bikash Waiba of Hakubesi of Aamachhodongmo Rural Municipality were detained in Chinese territory by the customs department informers of the Tibet government around a month ago as they were about to enter Nepal on a truck bearing the Nepali number plate.
The Chinese side confiscated nine pieces of precious yellow metal from the two, Rasuwa District Police Office quoted the Nepal Consulate General Office in Lhasa as saying.
According to Rasuwa DPO’s Inspector of Police Dhruba Silwal, further details regarding the case are awaited.
It may be noted that the Chinese side has already started implementing the proposal floated by the Nepali side during the past border-security meetings to increase its surveillance in such illegal affairs bearing in mind increasing smuggling of gold into Nepali territory via China, as Silwal said.Follow @gorkhapost