Unriddled: Facebook's Redemption, the 'Meaning' of Search Engines, and More Tech News You Need

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The summer might be coming to an end, but the Big Tech community is still hot with news around Google's meaning-based algorithm update, social media leaders' upcoming Senate appearance, and more from just this past week.

Oh, and Facebook might be making a real difference against misinformation.

It's our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we're breaking it down.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. Google Search Adds 'Meaning Variations' to its Ranking Algorithm

Google has been slowly but consistently moving its search engine ranking algorithm to focus more on the intent of a person's search and less on "exact keyword matching," the term it's known by in the SEO industry. Last week, Google gave the search engine its biggest update yet in that interest.

Years ago, Google issued "close variants" to make it easier for the search engine to understand searches if they included plural words and accidental misspellings. The company has now extended these close variants to the meaning of the keyword itself, allowing searchers to find the results they're looking for even if they paraphrase their search or leave certain questions to be implied. Read full story >>

2. Big Tech to Appear Before the Senate

The Facebook user data breach by analytics firm Cambridge Analytica might be several months behind us, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress was just the beginning of the U.S. Government's reaction.

On September 26, leaders from Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple are slated to appear at a Senate hearing focused on how each company is approaching the data privacy issues highlighted by Facebook earlier this year. The hearing follows similar appearances by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in front of congressional panels earlier this month.

"Americans are struggling to understand what's being collected and how it's used," Sen. John Thune, a Senator from South Dakota, said in a report by Wall Street Journal. "We're holding this hearing to help inform consumers and to determine where the federal government may need to assert itself." Read full story >>

3. Facebook's Assault on Misinformation Shows Improvement

It's tempting to dismiss a company's response after a crisis as lip service, but the action Facebook has taken to reduce the spread of misinformation since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is showing some promise.

A recent study by Stanford University has found that content published by a list of 570 "fake news" pages on Facebook has seen a 50% reduction in user engagement since the 2016 election. This includes likes, shares, and comments. As a point of comparison, the study says, engagement with the same type of content on Twitter has largely stayed the same.

This decrease in engagement helps validate the efforts Facebook says it has taken to intercept misleading or propaganda content on its platform -- whether or not it comes from Russia's Internet Research Agency, as it reportedly had leading up to the election two years ago.

Although Facebook's ability to actually curb misinformation was cited as "surprising" by Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow of public policy at Harvard, the company continues to journal its progress toward a better platform for its users. Most recently, Facebook announced it is hiring a Human Rights Policy Director to join the company. Read full story >>

4. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Acquires TIME Magazine

Earlier this week, Salesforce chairman and co-chief executive Marc Benioff and his wife agreed to purchase TIME Magazine for $190 million from Meredith Corp. -- TIME's owner for the last eight months. Benioff cites the magazine's "tremendous impact" and storytelling ability as reasons for his family's acquisition.

Although Benioff is buying TIME as an individual, not on behalf of his business, he joins a generation of technology leaders who've invested heavily in the U.S.'s largest publications. Amazon's Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013, and Steve Jobs' wife Laurene Powell Jobs accepted a majority stake in The Atlantic just last year. Read full story >>

5. Twitter to Let Users Opt for Chronological Newsfeeds

There was a time when Twitter's newsfeed displayed tweets from the people you followed in order of when the tweet was posted. (Those were the days … ). Then, in 2016, the company launched a core algorithm update that ranked tweets by the account's perceived importance to you.

Twitter is now reportedly giving users the option to use either system when browsing content on their feeds.

Twitter plans to release this chronological ordering option "in the next few weeks," at which time users can simply uncheck a box in their settings which normally serves to "show the best tweets first." Seeing tweets in reverse chronological order is part of Twitter's shift to giving people more control over what content they see on their timeline. Read full story >>

That's a wrap for today. Until next week, give me a shout on Twitter with your questions and feedback, as well as which events and topics you'd like us to cover moving forward.