Facebook announced last Wednesday changes to its trending topics section, which is the box of subjects users see on the top-right corner of the screen. The social network’s software will only recognize subjects covered by multiple credible sources, according to The Wall Street Journal. The subjects won’t be adjusted to user preferences.
The new announcement is a step forward when it comes to digital media literacy and the relationship between Facebook and its users. More work is needed, particularly around its trending topics algorithm, which has been the subject of controversy because of the sources that are cited when it comes to certain subjects. Nevertheless, this change shows Facebook is taking seriously its role as a gatekeeper. The social network is adapting to ensure the public receives the most valuable information possible – no matter the subject.
The move is also positive for journalists, who continue to disseminate information ethically on a platform fundamental to the future of the industry. Facebook is a necessary platform for journalists and news organizations to engage with audiences.
The rules for producing ethical journalism for journalists remain the same regardless of the platform, be it through a social media or something more traditional like newspapers. The Society’s Code of Ethics reminds journalists that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy when it comes to informing your audience.
Overall, these changes implemented by Facebook are a win-win for the members of the public who seek news and information 24 hours a day, and for the journalists who continue to seek truth and report it – their most important task.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.
The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Committee, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.