The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Facebook is tracking ‘trends,’ so we’re tracking Facebook

(Joerg Koch/AP)

Before Gizmodo published allegations that Facebook’s editors were biased, no one thought much about the “Trending” stories the site promotes in the top-right corner of its home screen. We’ve become very accustomed to the primacy of “trending” information everywhere, including Twitter, Google and other major news outlet home pages.

Over the past three months, however, some mishaps and minor scandals at Facebook Trending have begun to show exactly how fickle, and fallible, these sorts of “trending” algorithms can be. And that’s really, vitally important, because these sites are basically the sole brokers of the new information economy.

Three days after removing human editors, a fake story trends on Facebook

What kinds of news do they favor? What stories and subjects tend to trend? What information is valuable and important, according to the tech companies that currently command a large slice of the world’s collective attention? These are questions we don’t have exact answers to, but we’re certainly interested in taking a closer look. And we invite you to join us by email (!) as we try to nail down “the world according to Facebook.”

Every hour, on the hour, we’re logging the stories that trend on Facebook, Google and Twitter and compiling it into a daily email news digest. Among other things, we plan to track the priorities and timing of trends on each site, as well as the news that never makes it to them.

Are these trends an objective reflection of what’s happening in the world — or do they have their own algorithmic slants? Honestly, we don’t know … yet!

Go to this link to subscribe, and please consider sharing with your friends.

More background on this project: