Facebook next week is set to shut down the Trending news section on the service — coming after the social giant became ensnared in several controversies over the feature in the past few years.
First introduced in 2014, the Trending section is going away “to make way for future news experiences on Facebook,” Alex Hardiman, head of news products, wrote in a blog post. According to the company, the Trending box has been available in only five countries — the U.S., Canada, U.K., India and Australia — and accounts for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average.
“From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” Hardiman wrote in a blog post announcing the change.
While it may be true that Trending wasn’t used very much, the feature also opened Facebook to attack from critics who complained it was jury-rigging the news diet of its massive user base. In 2016, an unidentified former Facebook staffer claimed that the team that curated Trending topics regularly suppressed news stories with a conservative slant, Gizmodo reported. Facebook denied it had any policy to censor conservative viewpoints or specific publications.
Meanwhile, later that same year, Facebook’s Trending section posted an erroneous report that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had been fired from the network. The topics in Trending are monitored by human editors, based on an algorithm of trending news.
With Trending getting axed, Facebook is prepping the launch of several new features for news, which the company says consumers increasingly prefer to get in video.
According to Hardiman, Facebook will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the U.S. where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly features that will be exclusive to Watch. That will likely include original programming from CNN and Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources.
Facebook also is testing a “breaking news” label with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia along with breaking-news notifications. It also has a beta version of a dedicated section on Facebook called “Today In” to provide news from local publishers and updates from local officials and organizations.
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.