Facebook's Trending news box follows fired freelancers out the door

Troubles with the trending section began to emerge in 2016, when the company was accused of bias against conservatives, based on the words of an anonymous former contractor who said Facebook downplayed conservative issues in that feature and promoted liberal causes.

"From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful", Facebook's head of news products, Alex Hardiman, said in a blog post on Friday.

In 2016, I reported for Gizmodo that the company hired a small group of about a dozen young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or East Coast universities, to curate and decide what everyone in the US was able to see in the Trending module - and more importantly what they weren't able to see.

In early 2017, Facebook made another attempt to fix the trending section by including only topics covered by several news publishers. It also proved problematic in ways that hinted at Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of AI in managing the human world.

According to Recode, publishers will be able to leave a breaking news tag on a story for 15 minutes and up to six hours, but the tag now being tested does not boost the story's ranking in people's feeds.

Over 80 news publishers are now testing the "breaking news" label, which allows them to opt to flag their Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live video as breaking news, the company tells us. Facebook says it only rolled Trends out in five countries, and it only accounted for about 1.5% of clicks for news sites.

These new ways include a Breaking News label in the News Feed section for select publishers, a locally focused section that's being tested called Today In, and the addition of news video for US users of Facebook Watch. The company says it's killing that feature next week in order to focus on other news features.

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Facebook continues to lack transparency on their repeated changes to the way news is delivered to users.

As a result of increased news consumption on mobile devices - and increased news video consumption - the social media giant said that it's now exploring new ways to keep its users informed.

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

The post does confirm that the Washington Post now has access to the Breaking News label, but does not reveal the names of any of the other publishers.

The site is also reportedly working on a live coverage news section as part of Facebook Watch.

It turns out that Trending wasn't as popular as Facebook would have hoped, and that's why it's removing the feature.

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