Facebook has killed the hated Trending Topics bar

Kelley Robertson
June 2, 2018

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.

Facebook, ever eager avoid the liability that comes with being a publisher, said there was no bias.but nonetheless allowed that it "could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies".

"I consider us to be a technology company because the primary thing that we do is have engineers who write code and build product and services for other people", he told Congress.

The "breaking news" tag, which is being tested by 80 publishers, has caused a 4 percent increase in people clicking through links and an 11 percnent lift in people sharing those stories. But instead of having Facebook's moderators, human or otherwise, make editorial decisions, there's been a subtle shift to let news organizations do so. Facebook eventually fired the editors on the trending team, replacing them with an automated process.

The trending section had been a large target of criticism for the company. But the trending section also proved problematic in ways that would presage Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of artificial intelligence in managing the messy human world.

And so further commitments to change were made, "to restore any loss of trust in the Trending Topics feature", from the bias that Facebook couldn't find.

Alex Hardiman, Facebook's head of news products, said that the feature which was only available in five countries had only accounted for an average of 1.5 percent of clicks to a media outlets page.

Facebook announced on Friday that it planned to remove Trending, a module on the right-hand side of Facebook's desktop site that shows news stories people are discussing and sharing. "And we're investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most".

The relationship between journalism and Facebook has always been fraught.

And in almost the same breath, he then went on to admit that Facebook pays to "help produce content" - as it's doing now with these new news videos.

Facebook says the trending section wasn't a popular feature to begin with.

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