Facebook is removing the the trending news feature next week

Joshua Bennett
June 2, 2018

The feature accounted for an average of less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers from. Facebook also wants to make local news more prominent.

The Trending feature introduced four years ago listed stories buzzing on Facebook at any given time.

Despite the efforts, conservatives are still targeting Facebook and other technology companies. But the trending section also proved problematic in ways that would presage Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of artificial intelligence in managing the messy human world.

Conservatives have often charged Facebook with being biased against them, grilling Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the issue in an April hearing.

Facebook fired its human curators in response, saying at the time that it hoped to automate the Trending section.

Facebook's trending section was released in 2014 and has been a source of controversy for the social network.

But Alex Hardiman, the company's head of news products, said in a blog post that users are shifting to consuming news on their phones and through video. Hardiman said Facebook is testing the new label with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia. But at that time fake news was not a popular term and no foreign country had been accused of trying to influence the USA elections through social media, as Russian Federation would be.

In 2016, I reported for Gizmodo that the company hired a small group of about a dozen young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or East Coast universities, to curate and decide what everyone in the US was able to see in the Trending module - and more importantly what they weren't able to see.

These new ways include a Breaking News label in the News Feed section for select publishers, a locally focused section that's being tested called Today In, and the addition of news video for US users of Facebook Watch. The changes and features Facebook is putting out, he said, are being treated as "bug fixes" - addressing single problems the way engineers do.

Today In: We're testing a dedicated section on Facebook called Today In that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organizations. The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by outside publishers it would not yet name.

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