Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Wayne Curry

Facebook is shutting down its notorious 'trending' feature


Testing is underway for a "breaking news" label with 80 news publishers worldwide, said the company.

In January, Facebook changed the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, family members and groups over posts from publishers and brands. And, because algorithms are not flawless, they repeatedly goofed up, allowing fake news stories to spread across the network by highlighting factually inaccurate links that were going viral as well as other inappropriate content.

But Alex Hardiman, the company's head of news products, said in a blog post that users are shifting to consuming news on their phones and through video. Previously, moderators for Facebook made the decisions.

According to the Pew Research Centre, 44% of USA adults get some or all of their news through Facebook. Zuckerberg met with prominent right-wing leaders at the company's headquarters in an attempt at damage control. Yet two years later, Facebook still has not been able to shake the notion of bias.

Conservatives were outraged by allegations in 2016 that news curators had suppressed articles from right-leaning news outlets from being featured.

Active since 2014, the section highlighted three top news stories trending across the platform, though how Facebook decided which news items to include there often came under scrutiny.

The problems underscore the difficulty of relying on computers, or even AI, to make sense of the messy human world without committing obvious, sometimes embarrassing and occasionally disastrous errors.

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However, the "Trending" section in particular has been a source of concern ever since the company fired its Trending editors, leaving the selection of stories to its algorithms.

"There are other ways for us to better invest our resources", Hardiman told the AP. These efforts will be funded by Facebook itself, the company said.

But what needs to happen now, he added, is a broad shift in the company's corporate culture, recognizing the expertise involved in journalistic judgment.

"What they are not doing is giving an overall account of their mission on how these fixes fit together", Pasquale said.

The company didn't provide a time frame for when Facebook's news-focused video hub would go live, but said that "soon" 10 to 12 US publishers will be launching news shows in Watch, focused on live coverage of breaking events, daily shows and weekly shows.

"Breaking news has to look different than a recipe", Hardiman said.

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