Trending Topics was one of those Facebook features that seemed sensible on paper, but in practice turned out to be a major headache for the company.
During its four-year lifespan, it was accused of showing bias (on both sides of the partisan divide), and surfaced fake news stories — including one from the British tabloid The Daily Star about how the 9/11 attacks were faked.
Facebook has sensibly decided to call it quits, and is discontinuing the feature — which has been a never-ending source of criticism for the company, despite only being available in a handful of countries.
In a blog post titled “Removing Trending from Facebook,” the company said that the feature only accounted for 1.5 percent of clicks to news stories.
“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,” wrote Alex Hardiman, Head of News Products
The company intends to replace Trending Stories with two new features: first, news organizations will be able to label stories as breaking news. This feature will be available to 80 selected publishers, spread across North and South America, Australia, India, and Europe.
Then, mere *hours* later, the tolling of the death knell received an appropriate tribute: the news started Trending on Facebook, in the trending section itself. *LE SIGH*
The company is also testing a feature called ‘Today In.’ Facebook describes it as follows:
“We’re testing a dedicated section on Facebook 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 organizations.”
The relationship between journalism and Facebook has long been fraught. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves in this post-Trending Topics era.