Alex Hardiman, head of news products for Facebook, announced the change next week, writing:
We’re removing Trending soon to make way for future news experiences on Facebook. 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. We will remove Trending from Facebook next week and we will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API.
This should be a welcome alteration for anyone concerned about the proliferation of fake news and other poor quality content on the platform.
The Trending section has caused social media management trouble for Facebook almost since its inception. First, complaints that it skewed liberal led Facebook to replace humans with algorithms choosing stories. Then Russians and others gamed the algorithms to surface garbage content.
According to NPR:
“Since Facebook removed human reviewers from its news section, the algorithm has sometimes promoted misleading, false, or highly partisan content, serving it to millions of users,” Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert and fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, told NPR.
“Rather than informing users, it was often misinforming them. For an organization that claims it is not the arbiter of truth, the algorithm still acted as a curator and favored sensational content,” she said.
Facebook’s Hardiman writes that the company is experimenting with alternate social media management news products.
The company is running a test with 80 publishers in North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia allows publishers to tag items posted in NewsFeeds as breaking news. It’s also wading further into video with Facebook Watch in the U.S., which will allow see live events and other video.