Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Tech | By Amelia Peters

Facebook scraps 'outdated' trending news section

Facebook scraps 'outdated' trending news section

The quality of news on Facebook has been called into question after alleged Russian operatives, for-profit spammers and others spread false reports on the site, including during the 2016 USA election campaign. It was available only in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to the websites of news publishers.

Pasquale said Facebook's new efforts represent "very slow steps" toward an acknowledgement that the company is making editorial judgments when it decides what news should be shown to users - and that it needs to empower journalists and editors to do so.

"We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality", Hardiman said.

The company says that removing trending will "make way for future news experiences" and that most users are now consuming news and content through video on the platform.

Problems with the trending section emerged in 2016, when the company was accused of bias against conservatives, based on comments by an anonymous former contractor.

Facebook said it is working with 80 publishers in Australia, Europe, India, and the Americas on a "Breaking News" label to adorn posts in News Feed.

The Trending feature introduced four years ago listed stories buzzing on Facebook at any given time.

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Conservatives have often charged Facebook with being biased against them, grilling Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the issue in an April hearing. But at that time fake news was not a popular term and no foreign country had been accused of trying to influence the USA elections through social media, as Russian Federation would be.

One reason the feature is so little used could be that it's not immediately visible on Facebook's app or mobile version, where most people use the site.

Hardiman said that Facebook will remove the trending section next week. Facebook's news curation process involved curators using something called an "injection tool" to force news into the Trending feed that wasn't naturally trending. "And we're investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most".

The company didn't provide a time frame for when Facebook's news-focused video hub would go live, but said that "soon" 10 to 12 USA publishers will be launching news shows in Watch, focused on live coverage of breaking events, daily shows and weekly shows.

The date for Trending Topics to be removed is Thursday, June 7.

Hardiman said ending the trending section feels like letting a child go. The company is also funding news videos, created exclusively for Facebook by outside publishers it would not yet name.

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