Facebook to Drop Trending-Topics Feature

Facebook says it is shutting down its ill-fated 'trending' news section

Facebook's reaction to that 2016 controversy - to pull human moderators off Trending Topics so it's stocked purely by an algorithm - has been cited as opening the door for larger scandals like electorate tampering and misinformation campaigns.

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

"We've seen that the way people consume news on Facebook is changing to be primarily on mobile and increasingly through news video", Hardiman wrote in the Facebook blog post.

You've likely noticed the Trending box in the upper right-hand corner of your News Feed page before, only to forget about it and never click on a link there again.

Facebook's controversial Trending section has fallen out of fashion and will be removed next week, along with products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API.

"We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality", Hardiman said. But she said Facebook's focus now is prioritizing trustworthy, informative news that people find useful.

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In 2016, reports surfaced that the Trending section suppressed conservative news stories. The company tried to temper this by removing human reviewers who helped manage trending topics in favor of supposedly unbiased algorithms.

Conservatives have often charged Facebook with being biased against them, grilling Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the issue in an April hearing. It's being tested out in 30 markets in the U.S. Hardiman says the goal is to help "elevate great local journalism".

The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by publishers it would not yet name. It plans to launch this feature in the next few months.

While Facebook got outsized attention for the problems the trending section had - perhaps because it seemed popular with journalists and editors - neither its existence nor its removal makes much of a difference when it comes with Facebook's broader problems with news.

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.

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