Facebook is getting rid of its Trending Topics feature, according to a blog post the social network published Friday. The Trending sidebar, located on the right-hand side on desktop, displays popular topics users are discussing across the site. The product will officially shutter next week, including on third-party services that use the Facebook Trends API.
Alex Hardiman, Facebook’s head of news products, said the company is ditching the feature because it’s underused. But it has also been a major source of scandals for Facebook since it was launched in 2014. The feature, formerly run by journalists, was taken over by an automated system in 2016. After the switch, Trending Topics repeatedly surfaced conspiracy theories and outright false information. Similar trending features have caused headaches for other social networks, like YouTube and Twitter. Now, Facebook is ditching its for good.
Every social network’s trending section is theoretically designed to surface newsworthy, relevant information for users. But repeatedly, they have inadvertently highlighted harmful misinformation or been gamed by bots. Trending Topics has been particularly disastrous for Facebook; in 2016, the feature thrusted the social network into a major scandal when Gizmodo revealed that the journalists who ran it were reportedly suppressing news from conservative outlets.
Three months after the revelation and one inquiry from Congress later, Facebook laid off the journalists in charge of the feature and began relying on an algorithm to surface Trending Topics. (Facebook said that an internal investigation found no bias in the product.)
Read more here: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-killed-trending-topics