Facebook has killed the hated Trending Topics bar

Facebook killing controversial ‘Trending’ feature, breaking news alerts and more coming

The algorithms promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories, a false story about then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and a parody news article about magical iPhone features, which some say were early indicators of Facebook's misinformation problem. Yet two years later, Facebook still hasn't been able to shake the notion of bias.

Facebook said it is working with 80 publishers in Australia, Europe, India, and the Americas on a "Breaking News" label to adorn posts in News Feed. "We will remove Trending from Facebook next week and we will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API".

Facebook is now testing new features, including a "breaking news" label that publishers can add to stories to distinguish them from other chatter.

In late 2016, Facebook fired the human editors who worked on the trending topics and replaced them with software that was supposed to be free of political bias.

Facebook announced on Friday that it planned to remove Trending, a module on the right-hand side of Facebook's desktop site that shows news stories people are discussing and sharing.

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Alex Hardiman, Facebook's head of news products, said that the feature which was only available in five countries had only accounted for an average of 1.5 percent of clicks to a media outlets page.

The trending section has proved problematic in several important ways.

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. "So we're exploring new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news that matters to them, while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources". The Today In section, which is being piloted in 33 USA cities, is driving an average of 8 percent more traffic outbound from Facebook to the publishers themselves.

"Breaking news has to look different than a recipe", Hardiman said. In response, the company is investing in other news products, such as the "Breaking News" label, a local news tab, and news programs within Facebook Watch, its video service.

We'll see if doing away with the Trending section and delivering more meaningful news does anything to improve user trust in Facebook.

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