Tech News

Facebook Denies Censoring Trends, Search Through the Panama Papers… [Tech News Digest]

Dave Parrack 10-05-2016

Facebook denies wrongdoing over Trending Topics, the Panama Papers are now online, Apple Music helps Spotify succeed, help Donald Trump build his wall, and every Top 10 list video ever recorded.


Facebook Insists It Is Neutral

Facebook has denied claims it artificially controls the stories appearing in its Trending Topics section. The claims, as reported by Gizmodo, came from former contractors who worked for Facebook. These contractors, which include a former journalist, suggested Facebook prevented “stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics” from trending, even though they were organically trending.

As well as effectively censoring certain topics, Facebook is also accused of artificially inflating other stories, suggesting they were trending when they actually weren’t. The social network is also alleged to have blacklisted certain news sources, with curators charged with finding the same stories at more mainstream sites and promoting them instead. All of which suggests a considerable bias at play within Facebook.

Facebook has denied these accusations, with Vice President of Search Tom Stocky saying:

“Trending Topics is designed to showcase the current conversation happening on Facebook. Popular topics are first surfaced by an algorithm, then audited by review team members to confirm that the topics are in fact trending news in the real world and not, for example, similar-sounding topics or misnomer.”

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers’ actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense.”

We have to take Facebook’s word for this, and we’re happy to do so. However, Trending Topics are sure to be more closely watched for patterns of bias or censorship from here on out. While Facebook is essentially entitled to do what it wants with its own platform, its 1.6 billion users mean it’s capable of changing public opinion Facebook Meddles in Politics, Pay Monthly for Amazon Prime... [Tech News Digest] Facebook could change the face of politics, Amazon launches monthly Prime option, Apple gives iPhones three years, Microsoft's Captionbot is crap at identifying photos, and a Fallout game arrives on YouTube. Read More . Which is dangerous, whichever side of the political fence you stand on.

The Panama Papers Are Now Searchable

You can now search through a database of names connected to the Panama Papers. The database details the connections between hundreds of thousands of people and the offshore companies they’re involved with.


While this is “the largest ever release of information about offshore companies and the people behind them,” the database that is now online contains just “a fraction” of the 11.5 million files that make up the Panama Papers The Panama Papers: Could it Happen to You? The leak of what was named the "Panama Papers" has proven what many assumed: that our leaders have been bending the rules to line their pockets. But could a similar leak affect you? Read More .

The database has been released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. However, the ICIJ is only releasing the vaguest details rather than releasing a glut of personal and private information. Which is probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Marina Walker Guevara, ICIJ’s deputy director, has stated that “the bulk of the documents will remain confidential for journalists to explore, explaining that the consortium “think that the leak was given to ICIJ because we can apply the rigor of journalism”.

Spotify Thanks Apple Music

Spotify enjoyed several years as the king of music streaming with very little serious competition to speak of. And then along came both Apple Music and Tidal. While Tidal is struggling Is Jay Z's Tidal Music Worth a Second Listen? We weren't impressed by Jay Z's TIDAL at launch. Now, one year on, we thought we’d check in to see if TIDAL is worth using... Read More to gain users, Apple Music Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More is adding them at a rate of knots, racking up 13 million paying subscribers since launching in June 2015.


That’s an incredible growth rate, and it would be easy to assume Apple Music has stolen users from Spotify. Not so, says Spotify, with Jonathan Forster, one of Spotify’s vice presidents, recently telling Reuters:

“It’s great that Apple is in the game. They are definitely raising the profile of streaming. It is hard to build an industry on your own. Since Apple Music started we’ve been growing quicker and adding more users than before. It would be terrible if we were just taking each other’s users or to learn there was just a ceiling of 100 million users – I don’t think that is the case.”

This strongly suggests that all Apple has done with Apple Music is raise the profile of music streaming, and therefore aided Spotify in the longterm. Streaming is still a fledgling business The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s I've been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker, and now as a monthly subscriber to If you have a computer and a... Read More , but the more people who know about it, the better for all concerned. And the best streaming music service will ultimately win out.

Help Donald Trump Build His Wall

Donald Trump looks set to be the Republican nominee to be the next President of the United States of America and it’s all your fault Clicking Consequences: Why Donald Trump Is Your Fault Every time you click an article about Donald Trump, the media thinks that is what you want to read, and so it spends more time talking about Trump. Stop clicking! Read More . Trump is still regarded as a joke in some quarters, and mostly because of his promise to build an impenetrable wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The good news is that whether you support his plan or find the whole thing laughable, there’s a new game on iOS just for you. Called Trump’s Wall, it has you helping the The Donald build a wall around his house in order to keep the ducks out. With him shouting making barbed comments while you’re busy working away.


Just be careful not to fail though, as otherwise he’ll fire you, turning you into a contestant on The Apprentice. Trump’s Wall is free and available on iOS right now.

Every Top 10 List Video Ever [NSFW]

And finally, Top 10 lists are rife on the Internet, whether they’re presented as listicles on websites 5 Reasons Listicles are Bad For You: So Stop Reading Them! Let's understand the dangers of listicles for your brain, and how you can and should avoid them. Read More , or as videos on YouTube. The problem with the videos is they all seem to follow the same basic rules, with an annoying presenter with a punchable face delivering the content.

Jack Douglass noticed these trends, and created his own Top 10 list video counting down the Top 10 trends in every single Top 10 video ever made. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh some more, and then you’ll probably turn to the vodka to make life on the Internet slightly more palatable. [H/T Reddit]

Your Views on Today’s Tech News

Have you noticed any bias in Facebook’s trending topics? Are you actually interested in the Panama Papers? Which streaming music service are you currently using? How long until The Donald gets Trump’s Wall removed from the App Store? What are the Top 10 reasons you love/hate Top 10 lists?


Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.

Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.

Image Credit: Denis Dervisevic via Flickr

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  1. Anonymous
    May 10, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Methinks Facebook doth protest too much.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

      I certainly don't think we have heard the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.

      • Anonymous
        May 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

        FB attitude reminds me of the court scene from Few Good Men when Tom Cruise is questioning Jack Nicholson.
        Cruise - asks Nicholson to tell the truth.
        Nicholson - The truth?! YOU CAN"T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!