With the start of a new month, Facebook announced it will be removing the trending topics section, which features keywords associated with the latest news stories from different sources. Some of the sources that are featured include The New York Times, MSN, Fox News, Yahoo and the BBC.
The Trending Topics section was launched in 2014 and was accessible in five different countries. In the same year, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, said “Our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world.”
With the takeover of social media, Facebook has become a popular method of staying informed about the latest news and issues affecting the nation and world.
This year, The Pew Research Center conducted a study about how people use Facebook as a means for news. The study revealed that about 68 percent of adults use Facebook. Forty-five percent of these users get their news from Facebook.
With so many people gaining information solely from Facebook, this has allowed for the spread of fake news and unreliable sources. The main goal of removing the trending topics section is to combat fake news and provide users with reliable, trustworthy news.
This trending topics feature accounted for only 1.5 percent of clicks on news headlines, according to a blog posted by Facebook. Although this was one of the main reasons for shutting down this feature, the issue with the trending topics section spans deeper than being unused — Facebook has faced problems and criticism of suppressing conservative news in the trending topics section.
In 2016, it was revealed that news section employees were restricting the conservative news being displayed in the trending topics feature. The restrictions included omitting keywords such as Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and other figures associated with conservative politics.
In the same year, the company replaced their human editors with algorithms, leading to the presentation of false information. The change also created a political imbalance in the information shown to users.
The platform has attempted to make changes to avoid a political imbalance of news but has continued to face controversy surrounding the section’s suppressed conservative views and news. The restriction of political beliefs results in a company bias and creates a lack of information for both sides of the political spectrum.
During a testimony to Congress, Mark Zuckerberg said, “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes from fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”
Although this is the end of an era, Facebook is working to create other features to inform people about the latest news. These features, including a section called “Today In,” will include breaking news notifications, local news coverage and a video section.
Alex Hardiman, the head of news products, said, “People tell us they want to stay informed about what is happening around them. We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality, and we’re investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most.”