Facebook has decided to make a pretty big change to the way it facilitates people consume news on the social media giant. The Trending News section will be removed next week, bringing the features’ controversially run to an end.
In a blog post today, Alex Hardiman the Head of News Products, described the reasoning behind the decision:
We introduced Trending in 2014 as a way to help people discover news topics that were popular across the Facebook community. However, it was only available in five countries and accounted 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.
It’s a pretty innocuous statement, but Trending has been a history of being anything but.
Facebook faced a lot of criticism early on with the Trending section regarding a term that is pretty well known these days, “fake news“. Several high profile fake news stories started to get traction and show up on the Trending section regularly. It came to a head after the popular Fox News host, Megyn Kelly, was reported dead. Facebook promised to revamp the way the algorithm was tracking these stories, but problems continued. The Trending section would go onto embarrass the company even more, with stories from a satirical site that described the new Iphones literally magical new features.
Later in Trendings lifecycle, Facebook would again be called out for issues. Several former and current Facebook employees spoke to the press and revealed that the Trending function was not always based on an algorithm- as they had previously said. It turned out that although most of the stories would make it onto the list due to the numbers, many stories, namely ones with a conservative slant, would be suppressed by Facebook employees. This led to outrage as this was seen to be Facebook imposing it’s political views on it’s unsuspecting user base.
With how many issues Trending has had, it surprises me that they hadn’t removed it earlier. As someone who uses Facebook mostly on my phone and thus never seeing these, I had completely forgotten this even existed. Hopefully Zuckerberg and his social media giant will replace this with something that not only works, but that actually matters.