Facebook to pull plug on 'Trending' topics feature

Delia Walker
June 2, 2018

Despite the efforts, conservatives are still targeting Facebook and other technology companies.

In a blog post announcing Trending section's removal, Facebook's Alex Hardiman didn't wade into political bias territory, but instead noted that the way people consume news on Facebook has changed.

In the era of "fake news", Facebook is doing away with its "Trending" news section.

Facebook shared some early results from some of these product tests. Facebook also wants to make local news more prominent.

Meanwhile, the "Today In" feature is in testing in 33 US cities across the U.S.

Facebook said the feature was only available in five countries and accounted for roughly 1.5 percent of the traffic to news publishers' sites.

Facebook also is testing a dedicated section called Today In that connects people to breaking news from local publishers in their cities, as well as to updates from local officials and organizations. The company continued to modify the section, but Facebook said that over time it became less useful to users. However, the company declined to provide a list of publishers or details on the funding. More problematic was the feature's tendency to spread fake news, particularly during the 2016 presidential election, The Associated Press noted.

Ultimately, Facebook appears to conclude that trying to fix the headaches around trending wasn't worth the meager benefit the company, users and news publishers saw in it.

But the curation of trending news in the absence of human oversight led to more blowback and embarrassment. In answer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company had found no evidence of this, but insisted steps would be taken to remedy the situation if evidence emerged. When recently testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he insisted again that Facebook is a tech company. She added that the company is exploring new ways to help people stay informed "while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources".

And in almost the same breath, he then went on to admit that Facebook pays to "help produce content" - as it's doing now with these new news videos.

Facebook fired the team, and since then, algorithms have been largely responsible for governing what goes into the Trending sidebar, which is prominently displayed at the top of the desktop site. It was similar to a feature offered by Twitter (TWTR).

To replace the trending feature Facebook is testing a breaking news label and notifications and a new section on the platform called "Today In:".

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