After four years, Facebook is shutting down its “trending” news section and replacing it with features pushing breaking news from sources it deems to be trustworthy.
The social media platform announced Friday it would be scrapping the trending section to make way for additional features after finding it to be “less and less useful.”
The section, which displayed trending stories on the side of users’ screens, will be replaced by three features focused on breaking news, local news and news video.
The trending feature was originally introduced in 2014 as “as a way to help people discover news topics that were popular across the Facebook community,” the social media company said in a news release.
However, the company revealed that it was only available in five countries and made up less than 1.5 percent of average clicks to news publishers.
One year before the trending feature launched, CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised to make Facebook “users’ personal newspaper,” and the idea of a trending news section seemed to do just that.
However, “trending” became somewhat of a headache for the company after numerous complaints about the product promoting fake news and silencing conservative views.
In 2016, the feature faced extreme controversy after it was revealed that the editors in charge of choosing trending news stories often promoted progressive news while allegedly discriminating against stories from conservative sources.
In light of the controversy, the company opted to fire the editors and replace them with artificial intelligence, which only proved to be more problematic.
Soon after, Zuckerberg attempted to show the company’s desire for political balance by meeting with prominent conservative leaders, but further backlash from conservative news outlets well into 2018 seems to have further proven an imbalance.
In its Friday announcement, Facebook unveiled plans to help users stay informed by testing out a new “Breaking News” label on select news stories. The company has pre-approved 80 “trustworthy and quality” publishers from across the globe to test the feature on their posts in the News Feed.
“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,” Alex Hardiman, Facebook’s head of news products, wrote in the news release.
In short, the subtle change will allow news organizations to help users to stay informed about the news they care about most — as long as it’s from one of the organizations Facebook has chosen.
While the full list of the 80 publishers currently involved in the test has not been made public, those who have reported their involvement include The Washington Post, ABC News, Recode, The Verge and Vox.
In the announcement, Facebook did not disclose the criteria used to choose the 80 publishers, nor did the company reveal whether or not more publishers will be added in the future.
“People tell us they want to stay informed about what is happening around them,” Hardiman’s announcement concluded. “We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality, and we’re investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most.”
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