Facebook is shutting down its notorious 'trending' feature

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is testing a feature focused on highlighting breaking news

The biggest controversy came in 2016 when former Facebook staffers reported they regularly suppressed conservative news topics in the Trending section, calling into question the feature's legitimacy.

The move, effective next week, comes at a time when the world's largest social network is combating the spread of fake news on its platform, which has in some places become central to the distribution of news. In its announcement on Friday (June 1), Facebook said the section was driving only marginal traffic to news publishers.

Another feature, called "Today In", shows people breaking news in their area from local publishers, officials and organizations.

Breaking News Label: A test we're running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia lets publishers put a "breaking news" indicator on their posts in News Feed.

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.

Facebook's head of news products, Alex Hardiman, wrote in the announcement that the company is now testing a breaking news label that would put the power of editorial decisions in the hands of news organizations.

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A Facebook Watch zone for online video viewing will soon get a news section complete with live coverage, daily briefings, and "deep dives", he added. "Fake news" wasn't yet a popular term, and no foreign country had been accused of trying to influence the USA elections through social media, as Russian Federation later would be. By contrast, he said, deciding what news stories should go in "trending" requires broad thinking, quick judgments about context and decisions about whether someone is trying to game the system.

On Friday, Facebook minimized Trending Topics' impact in a blog post announcing the change.

Facebook says that the early results from this testing have led to a 4 percent lift in click-through rates, a 7 percent lift in Likes, and an 11 percent lift in shares.

"There are other ways for us to better invest our resources", Hardiman said.

"Breaking news has to look different than a recipe", Hardiman said. The Today In section, which is being piloted in 33 U.S. cities, is driving an average of 8 percent more traffic outbound from Facebook to the publishers themselves.

Facebook says the trending section wasn't a popular feature to begin with.

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