Facebook changes 'Trending Topics' in wake of controversy

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Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg meets with conservatives on Trending

Move fast and break stuff can also mean Facebook's own rules, especially in the wake of a torrent of criticism.

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Facebook announced on Monday afternoon that it would no longer be using other websites and media outlets to determine what belongs in the "Trending Topics" section.

"This means that we will discontinue use of the top-10 list of news outlets, the Media 1K list, and the RSSfeed," wrote Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch in a letter to Senator John Thune.

See images of Facebook over the years:

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Facebook over the years
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Facebook changes 'Trending Topics' in wake of controversy

The original Facebook homepage from 2004 with a small picture of Al Pacino in the top left corner.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg originally described himself as not only the founder of Facebook, but also as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State."

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Here's what a Facebook group page looked like in 2005.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

For comparison, this is what a Facebook group page looks like today.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook homepage in 2005 also listed all of the schools the social network was in -- and still included the photo of Al Pacino.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The company decided to drop the "the" from its name in 2005, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

We love this gem about "poking" from one of the original FAQ pages.

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Facebook's homepage in 2006 was a stripped-back affair, doing away with the list of schools in favor of a simple login option.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg's profile in 2006.

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Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends' activity in a single timeline in 2006.

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At the same time, Facebook introduced the Mini-Feed. But the entire concept of a News Feed resulted in some very public outrage. Some users even went so far to call one of Facebook's product managers the devil.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's 2007 homepage contained the first instance of its now-synonymous logo and offered the "latest news" from friends.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The Facebook of 2008 continued to refine the homepage and offered options for signing up.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook gained the "connected world" diagram in 2009, which lasted all the way until 2011.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

In 2009, Facebook's home page also got a facelift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real-time.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

That same year, Facebook also introduced its algorithm for determining the order in which status updates should be displayed.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook changed its logo font in 2010 but left the homepage much the same.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

2010 was also when Facebook brought notifications to the top navigation bar following yet another redesign.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also rolled out a new, more visual profile in 2010. It added a row of recently tagged images below your name and basic profile information.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook left the design the same in 2011, but made the input boxes used to log in clearer.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Ticker in 2011 so users could keep up with their friends while browsing through other parts of Facebook.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook Timeline feels like it's been around since the beginning. But it launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life.

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Facebook also split its instant messaging into a different app called Messenger in 2011. It's now got more than 800 million monthly users.

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Facebook swapped out the connected world diagram for a phone in 2012 as its users moved from desktop to mobile. Today, over 800 million people access Facebook on mobile everyday.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook started flooding the News Feed with sponsored stories in January 2012.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook settled on a design in 2013 that it would stay with for the next few years.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

This is what Facebook's mobile app looked like when it first launched.

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It has since been completely redesigned.

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Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. With more than 400 million monthly users, that seems like a steal nowadays.

Photo courtesy: Business Insider

2015 was a big year for Facebook that saw its first ever day with one billion users online simultaneously. The company had figured out how to make money from mobile too, turning it into a $300 billion business.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Today, more than 1.5 billion people use the social network every single month.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

And more than 1.4 billion people use it on their mobile phones every month. Not bad, considering 12 years ago smartphones didn't even exist.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

Here's the Facebook homepage today, on its 12th birthday.
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Thune had been the most vocal politician to come out against Facebook after some of the social network's former contractors alleged that there had been instances in which conservative media outlets were suppressed in the Trending Topics section.

Stretch also said that Facebook's own internal investigation did not find any evidence of bias.

"Our investigation has revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature. In fact, our analysis indicated that the rates of approval of conservative and liberal topics are virtually identical in Trending Topics," Stretch wrote.

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The allegations against Facebook snowballed quickly after the original report from Gizmodo.The public pressure eventually led CEO Mark Zuckerberg to host a meeting with conservative leaders in an attempt to address and alleviate their concerns.

Thune said in a statement that he had been pleased with Facebook's response, although he did say that the reliance of Trendings Topics on human input had been greater than expected.

Thune said he hoped going forward the company would be more open in explaining its methodology.

"While the committee remains open to new information on this matter, transparency – not regulation – remains the goal, so I thank the company for its efforts to acknowledge relevant facts and its recognition of a continuing need to transparently address relevant user questions," he wrote.

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