Today, Facebook announced an update to its Trending Topics section that will make the list of news stories easier to parse on mobile with a more diverse list of sources. Now, when you click on a news topic from the search bar on an iPhone, you’ll get multiple stories from different outlets that can be swiped through in a carousel format, as well as the standard posts from friends and prominent celebrity and public figure pages you follow. The company plans to roll the redesign out to Android and desktop soon.
Facebook isn’t deciding which publications will be shown. The company spent a healthy chunk of last year tweaking Trending Topics after a controversy over liberal bias, which sparked fierce debates about Facebook’s editorial influence in the run up to the US election.
After firing the human curators who oversaw story selection and watering down the Trending list to a regional list of popular subjects, Facebook seems to have found an equilibrium. (The company still appears reluctant to admit any part of it resembles a media company.) So the new update will simply show “some of the most popular stories about that topic on Facebook,” the company’s blog post reads.
Facebook says stories are determined the “same way as the featured headline — using a combination of factors including the engagement around the article on Facebook, the engagement around the publisher overall, and whether other articles are linking to it,” writes Facebook product manager Ali Ahmadi and designer John Angelo. “By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region.”
Another change to Trending Topics on mobile includes a new top list of stories that will display the three most talked-about subjects on Facebook in your geographical region right in the News Feed. This is just a test for now, and Facebook won’t say if it will make its way to the wider user base. “While most people will not see Trending in their News Feed as part of this small test, we hope that it will help us learn how to make Trending as useful and informative for people as possible,” Ahmadi and Angelo write. “If you do see the Trending unit in your News Feed, you have the option to remove it in the drop-down menu which will prevent it from being shown to you in the future.”