Facebook Kills Off Trending Topics Feature

Saul Franklin
June 2, 2018

Facebook has sensibly chose to call it quits, and is discontinuing the feature - which has been a never-ending source of criticism for the company, despite only being available in a handful of countries.

Facebook and other social media platforms have been criticized for their role in allowing disinformation to spread during the 2016 USA election, in many cases with the help of automated "bots" or disguised Russian-based accounts.

Facebook really doesn't want to be a media company. The backlash from conservatives led Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to extend an olive branch, holding a meeting at his company headquarters with more than two dozen conservative figures including Glenn Beck, Dana Perino and Tucker Carlson.

The trending section had been a headache for the company.

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Facebook introduced a feature called Trending in 2014, and you can probably guess what it did even if you never touch Facebook.

The social network announced this morning it's removing its often controversial "Trending" section from its site next week, in order to make way for "future news experiences", it says. The company continued to modify the section, but Facebook said that over time it became less useful to users. It also said it was launching a dedicated section for live coverage and daily news briefings in its Watch product. By contrast, he said, deciding what news stories should go in "trending" requires broad thinking, quick judgments about context and decisions about whether someone is trying to game the system. Hardiman said Facebook is testing the new label with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia.

While it may be true that Trending wasn't used very much, the feature also opened Facebook to attack from critics who complained it was jury-rigging the news diet of its massive user base. "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".

Another feature, called Today In shows people breaking news in their area from local publishers, officials and organisations. More problematic was the feature's tendency to spread fake news, particularly during the 2016 presidential election, The Associated Press noted. The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by outside publishers it would not yet name.

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