Facebook has killed the hated Trending Topics bar

Facebook killing controversial ‘Trending’ feature, breaking news alerts and more coming

Facebook killing controversial ‘Trending’ feature, breaking news alerts and more coming

Facebook is testing new features, including a breaking news label that publishers can add to stories to distinguish them.

It's unusual for a site that's used for search, like Facebook, to not manage a trending section.

As part of removing Trending from Facebook, the company also will shut down products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends application programming interface. During CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent hearings before the US Congress and European Union parliament, purported prejudice against conservative-leaning posts was repeatedly brought up by lawmakers.

The trending section had been a headache for the company.

The decision to eliminate the section is the latest example of Facebook rethinking how news is presented on its platform after more than a year of criticism over fake news and election meddling.

"From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful", Facebook's head of news products, Alex Hardiman, said in a blog post on Friday.

The trending topics section officially launched in 2014 with the promise of helping users "discover the best content from all across Facebook".

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.

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 USA was able to see in the Trending module - and more importantly what they weren't able to see.

Over 80 news publishers are now testing the "breaking news" label, which allows them to opt to flag their Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live video as breaking news, the company tells us.

While Facebook got attention for the problems the trending section had - perhaps because it seemed popular with journalists - neither its existence nor its removal makes much difference in regards to Facebook's broader problems with news. Facebook faced accusations of political bias in the surfacing of news stories.

Facebook didn't announce any plans to bring back Trending, or some version of it in the future.

The changes arrive at a time when Facebook has been held accountable for allowing the spread of fake news across its network, and it has responded with a host of fake news-fighting features like fact checking, adding publisher context, the addition of related articles, shrinking fake news in the News Feed, and other initiatives.

The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by publishers it would not yet name.

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