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Facebook changes Trending Topics policies after criticism

Gorkha Post

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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.

Reuters

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Magnitude 8.2 quake rattles Fiji

Thompson Reuters

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A massive quake of magnitude 8.2 struck in the Pacific Ocean close to Fiji and Tonga on Sunday but it was so deep that it was not expected to cause any damage, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The US Tsunami Warning Center also said the quake was too deep to cause a tsunami.

The quake was 347.7 miles (560 km) below the Earth which would have dampened the shaking at the surface.

“I would not expect any damage. People will feel it but it’s so deep that I would not expect any damage,” USGS geophysicist Jana Pursley said by telephone.

The quake was initially reported as a magnitude 8.0 and then upgraded to 8.2, a magnitude that could cause tremendous damage had it not been so deep.

The epicenter was located 167 miles (270 km) east of Levuka in Fiji and 275 miles (443 km) west of Neiafu in Tonga.

The area is located on the earthquake-prone Ring of Fire.

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