If you rely upon Facebook’s “Trending News” section to keep up with the latest breaking stories, you’ll soon have to look elsewhere.
Trending News will be phased out “to make way for future news experiences on Facebook,” said the social media giant in a public statement.
Only 1.5 percent of total clicks to news sites originate from Trending News. Rendering a minuscule click-through rate (so they claim), the social media platform hopes to transition into a news section built around local news as opposed to national news stories.
Depending on the rollout and beta testing, users may see the following changes:
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. We’re also testing breaking news notifications.
Today In: 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.
News Video in Watch: 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.
In the aftermath of FakeNewsGate, Facebook claims they’ll ensure the news users see on Facebook “is from trustworthy and quality sources.” Though in this particular statement, Facebook failed to indicate or elaborate upon how they’ll determine who is a “trustworthy and quality source.”
The hand-picked Trending News section was thrust into national headlines when a former employee claimed the site “routinely suppressed” conservative-leaning news subjects and “artificially injected” news stories that were not breaking news.
Gizmodo reported in May of 2016:
Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.
Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”
…“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator.
The uproar resulted in a face-to-face meeting with a handful of right-leaning leaders and media types and Mr. Facebook himself, Mark Zuckerberg.
Approximately 214 million people in North America use Facebook. So when nearly half of American adults get some or all of their news from Facebook, the way news is curated, suppressed, or pushed is a big freaking deal, especially from a platform that’s proved repeatedly it’s more than a little hostile to conservative values, principles, and users.