Facebook kills 'Trending' feature, tests breaking news indicator
San Francisco: Facebook has finally decided to do away with its controversial "Trending" feature to make way for "future news experiences" which may include a breaking news notifications.
"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," Alex Hardiman, Facebook's Head of News Products said in a statement on Friday.
Facebook introduced the Trending feature in 2014 aiming to help people discover news topics that were popular across the community.
But for this feature that show a collection of headlines, the social networking giant soon faced allegations of political bias.
The headlines were initially selected by human editors and a former contractor on the project claimed that Facebook used this feature to promote liberal causes and suppress conservative issues, NBC News reported.
Facebook later removed the human editors and in its bid to appear neutral put in place an algorithm to decide what would find a place in the Trending section.
However, the algorithm went haywire, at times promoting hoax stories and offensive headlines, including one about a man masturbating with a McDonald's sandwich, the NBC News report said.
Facebook said that the feature was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of clicks to news publishers on average.
"From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful," Hardiman said.
"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," she said.
Facebook said it is running a test in several countries including in India to let publishers put a "breaking news" indicator on their posts in News Feed.
"We're also testing breaking news notifications," Hardiman said.
In addition to this, Facebook is also testing a dedicated section called "Today In" that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organisations.
"We will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch," Hardiman added.
"We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality, and we're investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most," she said.