During the summer, the outrage over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, and subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, dominated the conversation on Twitter. Facebook, on the other hand, gave momentum to the ice bucket challenge, leading some to speculate that its algorithm was hiding posts about the controversial events in Ferguson.
On Thursday, Facebook said it was rolling out an update to its news feed algorithm that would highlight timely and trending posts earlier.
“We’ve heard feedback that there are some instances where a post from a friend or a Page you are connected to is only interesting at a specific moment, for example when you are both watching the same sports game, or talking about the season premiere of a popular TV show,” software engineer Erich Owens and engineering manager David Vickrey said in a blog post. “There are also times when a post that is a day or two old may not be relevant to you anymore.”
The news feed will begin factoring in trending topics, ranking posts with relevant news stories higher. A small test found such a change resulted in 6% more engagement, measured by the number of shares, comments, likes, or clicks.
In addition, the company will take into account when people engage with a post (e.g., if a post is popular shortly after publishing but not after several hours). Using that as a signal, it will prioritize timely posts higher up in the beginning and push them down in the feed later on. This signal will also help Facebook decide when to resurface older popular stories that people might not have seen the first time around.