Tuesday October 23, 2018
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Facebook Killing Controversial ‘Trending’ Feature, Breaking News Alerts and More Coming

Facebook kills 'Trending' feature, tests breaking news indicator

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Facebook unveils AI-powered video chat speakers amid privacy concerns. Pixabay
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Facebook has finally decided to do away with its controversial “Trending” feature to make way for “future news experiences” which may include a breaking news notifications.

“We will remove Trending from Facebook next week and we will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API,” Alex Hardiman, Facebook’s Head of News Products said in a statement on Friday.

Facebook introduced the Trending feature in 2014 aiming to help people discover news topics that were popular across the community.

But for this feature that show a collection of headlines, the social networking giant soon faced allegations of political bias.

The headlines were initially selected by human editors and a former contractor on the project claimed that Facebook used this feature to promote liberal causes and suppress conservative issues, NBC News reported.

Facebook later removed the human editors and in its bid to appear neutral put in place an algorithm to decide what would find a place in the Trending section.

However, the algorithm went haywire, at times promoting hoax stories and offensive headlines, including one about a man masturbating with a McDonald’s sandwich, the NBC News report said.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

Facebook said that the feature was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of clicks to news publishers on average.

“From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” Hardiman said.

“We’re exploring new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news that matters to them, while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources,” she said.

Facebook said it is running a test in several countries including in India to let publishers put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed.

“We’re also testing breaking news notifications,” Hardiman said.

Also Read: Facebook Losing out to YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat Among US Teens

In addition to this, Facebook is also testing a dedicated section called “Today In” that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organisations.

“We will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch,” Hardiman added.

“We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality, and we’re investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most,” she said. (IANS)

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Facebook Set up a War Room to Fight Election Interference

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad

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Facebook now has a War Room to fight election interference. Pixabay

In line with its efforts to prevent misuse of its platform during elections, Facebook has set up a War Room to reduce the spread of potentially harmful content.

Facebook faced flak for not doing enough to prevent spread of misinformation by Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 US presidential election. The social networking giant has rolled out several initiatives to fight fake news and bring more transparency and accountability in its advertising since then.

The launch of the first War Room at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, is part of the social network’s new initiatives to fight election interference on its platform.

Although Facebook opened the doors of the War Room ahead of the general elections in Brazil and mid-term elections in the US, it revealed the details only this week.

The goal behind setting up the War Room was to get the right subject-matter experts from across the company in one place so they can address potential problems identified by its technology in real time and respond quickly.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

“The War Room has over two dozen experts from across the company – including from our threat intelligence, data science, software engineering, research, community operations and legal teams,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s Director of Product Management, Civic Engagement, said in a statement on Thursday.

“These employees represent and are supported by the more than 20,000 people working on safety and security across Facebook,” Chakrabarti added.

Facebook said its dashboards offer real-time monitoring on key elections issues, such as efforts to prevent people from voting, increases in spam, potential foreign interference, or reports of content that violates our policies.

The War Room team also monitors news coverage and election-related activity across other social networks and traditional media in order to identify what type of content may go viral.

These preparations helped a lot during the first round of Brazil’s presidential elections, Facebook claimed.

The social networking giant said its technology detected a false post claiming that Brazil’s Election Day had been moved from October 7 to October 8 due to national protests.

While untrue, that message began to go viral. But the team quickly detected the problem, determined that the post violated Facebook’s policies, and removed it in under an hour.

“And within two hours, we’d removed other versions of the same fake news post,” Chakrabarti said.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

The team in the War Room, Facebook said, also helped quickly remove hate speech posts that were designed to whip up violence against people from northeast Brazil after the first round of election results were called.

“The work we are doing in the War Room builds on almost two years of hard work and significant investments, in both people and technology, to improve security on Facebook, including during elections,” Chakrabarti said.

Earlier this month Facebook said that it was planning to set up a task force comprising “hundreds of people” ahead of the 2019 general elections in India.

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“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, told the media in New Delhi.

Facebook has also set a goal of bringing a transparency feature for political ads — now available in the US and Brazil — to India by March next year, Allan informed.

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad. (IANS)