Facebook to shutter trending topics feature
Facebook is shutting down its trending topics section, a feature that was intended to highlight interesting conversations on the platform but ended up creating political headaches for the company.
The section will be removed from Facebook next week, the company said Friday.
“It was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average,” Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook, said in a blog post Friday. “From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful.”
The trending topics section officially launched in 2014 with the promise of helping users “discover the best content from all across Facebook.” It was similar to a feature offered by Twitter.
But in 2016, an anonymous former Facebook contractor alleged that colleagues at the company suppressed news about “popular conservative topics” from the trending section.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, later met with conservative commentators and leaders to defuse an uproar over the allegations. Facebook also ditched human moderators for the section and relied instead on algorithms.
The decision to eliminate the section is the latest example of Facebook rethinking how news is presented on its platform after more than a year of criticism over fake news and election meddling.
In January, Facebook changed the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, family members and groups over posts from publishers and brands. Facebook is also promoting more local news stories and letting users rank the trustworthiness of various publications.
While the trending topics will disappear, Facebook is currently testing a new option with 80 publishers around the world to place a “breaking news” label on their posts in the News Feed.