Facebook kills troubled 'trending' topics feature

Facebook kills troubled 'trending' topics feature

"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".

Facebook said it is also testing a new section called "Today In", which displays local breaking news, and a dedicated section of Facebook Watch in the USA for live videos and other items exclusive to the platform.

"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. 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 that Facebook will remove the trending section next week. A perception that Facebook had editorial bias made leadership skittish about even creating the appearance it was suppressing news, which gave fake stories a clearer path to spread.

More news: 'Murdered' Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko appears on Ukrainian TV

Trending Topics started in 2014 and caused plenty of headaches for Facebook. It also proved problematic in ways that hinted at Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of AI in managing the human world.

How the platform approached its role as a news disseminator has sparked heavy criticism across a number of different groups. "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". It's being tested in 30 markets in the US.

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. The product is still in what Facebook calls "alpha" testing, which indicates it's very early days for this feature - an alpha test precedes a beta test, which itself is ahead of a public launch. "It was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5 percent of clicks to news publishers on average", Alex Hardiman, Facebook's head of news products, said in the post.

Facebook says the trending section was never popular.

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