Instructions in the documents appear to contradict Facebook's earlier denials of a Gizmodo article that said Facebook editors directly inserted headlines into the trending news widget. It also contradicts what Facebook told Recode last summer.
The guidelines obtained by the Guardian additionally show that editors must select trending news topics from headlines its algorithm surfaced, and make sure that they appear on five of a list of 10 "trusted" news sources that include the New York Times, BBC News, CNN and Fox News. This is likely to make people who are upset about alleged anti-conservative bias that Gizmodo reported on even madder; Fox News looks like the only right-wing outlet on the list.
The Guardian notes that the former Facebook editors it spoke to disagreed with the allegations of anti-conservative leanings at Facebook, and that Facebook has since updated its guidelines.
Shortly after this story was published, Facebook VP of global operations Justin Osofsky posted a broad overview of how the Trending Topics tool works, in addition to Facebook's updated Trending Topics guidelines.
These guidelines include a list of the many RSS links for news publications that Facebook scans to find news topics. Additionally, Facebook released the list of the 1,000 publications that it uses to verify a generated trending topic. Some publications that aren't on the so-called "1K" list: Capital New York, Times of India, Eater, Polygon and Recode.
Keeping track of these lists is getting confusing, so here's a straightforward breakdown of how Facebook uses them to source and write its Trending Topics headlines:
- The RSS feed is a way of identifying stuff that's trending that isn't just on Facebook.
- The 1K list has websites that can be used to verify headlines.
- Editors use the 10 outlets list (New York Times, Fox News, CNN, etc.) to figure out how important the story is.