Facebook announced a major shakeup to its controversial Trending Topics section last week, eliminating personalized stories and instituting a uniform rundown that everyone in the same geographic area will see.
“This should surface trending topics quicker, be more effective at capturing a broader range of news and events from around the world and also help ensure that topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets,” Will Cathcart, vice president of product management, said in a statement.
The Trending Topics feature has been embroiled in controversy since the summer when the former (human) editors of the tool were accused of letting their personal biases affect which stories were promoted. Then, after Facebook switched to an automated algorithm, the feature was blamed for creating “bubbles” for users who only saw content like the kind they already liked. This allowed fake news stories to run wild on the site, and, depending on the expert you ask, even influence the U.S. presidential election.
In other words, this tweak could go a long way toward eliminating the “echo chamber” effect that allowed hoax content to go viral. Coupled with the rest of Facebook’s broad plan to fight fake news, this big change could an equally big impact.