Facebook's Trending news box follows fired freelancers out the door


Facebook is finally killing the Trending news box after operating it for just about four years. The feature proved underwhelming, he argued, accounting for "less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average".

A 3D-printed Facebook like button is seen in front of the Facebook logo, in this illustration taken October 25, 2017.

The feature caused Facebook a massive headache in 2016, after Gizmodo reported that the humans hired to moderate content featured in the section were suppressing conservative sources.

Facebook's decision to partner with media outlets and rank news items by their trustworthiness has raised eyebrows, however, since the published partner list overwhelmingly leaned left and mainstream.

Republicans have also pummeled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with multiple examples of conservative voices suspended or banned from the platform, which Zuckerberg tried to explain as "enforcement errors" during two days of testimony before Congress in April.

The section, which launched in 2014, was created to help people quickly find interesting topics on Facebook.

The resulting storm of criticism from conservative media companies and politicians led to the firing of nearly all the human editors and a high-profile meeting between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and several prominent conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck, during which the Facebook co-founder tried to convince the group his platform wasn't biased against them. In early 2017, Facebook made another attempt to fix the trending section, this time by including only topics covered by several news publishers.

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"We've seen that the way people consume news on Facebook is changing to be primarily on mobile and increasingly through news video", Hardiman wrote in the Facebook blog post.

In late 2016, Facebook fired the human editors who worked on trending topics and replaced them with software that was supposed to be free of political bias.

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.

Since then, the social network has repeatedly said it is committed to focusing on only high-quality news sources, including those it believes are the most trusted by a broad range of users.

Hardiman said ending the trending section feels like letting a child go.

He said the Trending feature would be removed "soon". The company is simultaneously experimenting with a breaking-news notification, a section dedicated to breaking local news, and a video feature for American users to watch live coverage and weekly reports.