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Facebook takes aim at fake news with new 'trending' formula

| Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, 9:15 p.m.
FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Facebook is updating its 'trending' feature, which shows popular topics discussed and shared on its site, in an effort to root out fake news and misinformation. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Facebook is updating its 'trending' feature, which shows popular topics discussed and shared on its site, in an effort to root out fake news and misinformation. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is updating its “trending” feature that highlights hot topics on its social networking site, part of its effort to root out the kind of fake news stories that critics contend helped Donald Trump become president.

With the changes announced Wednesday, Facebook's trending list will consist of topics being covered by several publishers. Before, it focused on subjects drawing the biggest crowds of people sharing or commenting on posts.

The switch is intended to make Facebook a more credible source of information by steering hordes of its 1.8 billion users toward topics that “reflect real world events being covered by multiple outlets,” Will Cathcart, the company's vice president of product management, said in a blog post.

Facebook also will stop customizing trending lists to cater to each user's personal interests. Instead, everyone located in the same region will see the same trending lists, which currently appear in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and India.

That change could widen the scope of information Facebook's users see, instead of just topics that reinforce what they may have already heard or read elsewhere. The broader perspective might reduce the chances of Facebook's users living in a “filter bubble” — only engaging with people and ideas with which they agree.

Facebook introduced its trending list in 2014 in response to the popularity of a similar feature on Twitter, the short-messaging service that competes for people's attention and advertising revenue.

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