FACEBOOK says it plans to scrap a key feature of its News Feed: the Trending section.
Trending highlights popular news stories Facebook thinks you’ll want to read – but has been a major source of controversy, often throwing up rogue results.
That controversy may be why Facebook will kill Trending for everyone in the coming days – although it won’t admit it.
“From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” explained Alex Hardiman, Facebook’s news boss.
“We will remove Trending from Facebook next week.”
Facebook is pinning the blame for Trending’s death on users who now prefer to watch news videos – rather than read traditional news articles.
“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.
“So we’re exploring new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news that matters to them, while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources.”
Trending has caused embarrassment for Facebook a number of times in recent years.
Originally, human curators would choose what stories appeared in Trending.
But the curators were often accused of being biased – particularly against conservative viewpoints.
One contractor who worked the job described it as the “most toxic work experience of my life”.
“There is an extraordinary amount of talent on the team, but poor management, coupled with intimidation, favouritism and sexism, has resulted in a deeply uncomfortable work environment,” the anonymous Facebook worker told The Guardian in 2016.
“Employees I worked with were angry, depressed and left voiceless – especially women.”
In August that year, Facebook made the decision to sack human curators working on the Trending section and rely in robots instead.
Facebook began using smart algorithms to detect popular stories to surface to Facebook users.
This led to a number of goofs, including the algorithm surfacing a fake article about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
Now that Trending is being killed off for good (to save Facebook from more shame), users will begin to see replacement features to improve news content.
There are three options being explored by Facebook right now:
Breaking News Label – Facebook is running a test with 80 publishers to put a “breaking news” indicator on posts in the News Feed. There’s also a trial for breaking news notifications.
Today In – Facebook is testing a dedicated section called Today In that serves you breaking and important news from local publishers in your city, as well as news updates from local officials and organisations
News Video in Watch – There’ll soon be a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US that lets you view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives. These will be exclusive to Watch
Facebook’s continuing fight against complaints over fake news, left-wing bias, and criticisms over the role it should play in curating the media means we’re probably going to see more changes to the News Feed in the coming months.
The social network is also under pressure to clean up its act following this year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw Facebook give away the personal info of 87million users without their permission.
Do you use Facebook less these days? Let us know in the comments!
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