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Facebook adds the human touch

News, 29 June 2016

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook has launched a new public events tool that aims to improve the information available to users because it includes recommendations from the social network's own staff rather than solely via an algorithm.

Called "Featured Events", lists will be created by a team at Facebook to show "fun local things" happening in specific cities, including the arts, family events, food and drink, music and several other activities.

The feature is initially being made available to iOS users in ten US cities – Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC – but may roll out to other locations at a later date.

"You can think about it like a weekend for weekly digest of cool stuff that you can do in your city," Aditya Koolwal, Facebook Events product manager, told TechCrunch.

"What we do is have a team of people who are basically looking at events on Facebook that have broad appeal, that a lot of people could go to and they're highlighting ones they think will be good to list out," he added.

Facebook has been using an algorithmic process for some time, where suggested events appear in the News Feed, but one of the advantages of Featured Events, according to Koolwal, is that it will give users more time to plan.

He said highly engaged users will receive a push notification, giving them enough time to see what the Featured Events are, contact friends and see if they want to go.

Facebook also made it clear that its human curators will not be influenced by whether an event host has bought an ad or not, and the feature will not include events primarily focused on politics or religion.

The last restriction may allude to a controversial claim made earlier this year on Gizmodo, the technology portal, that Facebook was deliberately omitting articles with conservative viewpoints from its trending topics section.

After an internal investigation found "no evidence of systematic political bias" in either the selection or prominence of stories, Facebook nonetheless said it had updated its guidelines.

Data sourced from TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Facebook; additional content by Warc staff