Facebook has announced the end of their controversial “trending news” feature. It is to be replaced by a “breaking news” label that it is testing with a select group of 80 publications. Facebook has not yet said if the feature will become available to all publications.
Facebook said they will replace trending news — the list of “trending stories” that appear in users’ sidebars — with three new features, one focused on breaking news, another on local news, and another on video.
Facebook indicated that they will discriminate against sources the platform doesn’t deem to be trustworthy, saying the system is designed to keep users informed of “timely, breaking news” while “making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources.”
Trending news, the feature that Facebook plans to replace, was the subject of intense controversy in 2016 — including the threat of an investigation from Senate commerce committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD) — after it was revealed that the editors in charge of Trending repeatedly discriminated against news stories of interest to conservatives, while promoting progressive stories.
Facebook explained the new features in an announcement.
- 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.
Facebook continues to lack transparency on their repeated changes to the way news is delivered to users. The company has not yet revealed the criteria they used to select the 80 publishers currently testing the breaking news label, nor whether the feature will eventually be rolled out to all major news publications. They have also not explained how they intend to source their “exclusive” material on Watch.
In response to Breitbart’s comment request, Facebook referenced a post containing more information. But the post does not reveal what criteria was used to select the 80 publishers currently testing the breaking news label, nor what criteria would be used to select further publishers. There is not even a clear commitment to increase the program beyond the current list of 80 publishers — Facebook merely states “if the expansion is successful, we may add more publishers.”
The post does confirm that the Washington Post currently has access to the Breaking News label, but does not reveal the names of any of the other publishers. Tech publication Recode confirmed that they are also part of the test, as are The Verge and Vox, two publications that are part of the left-leaning Vox Media group. ABC News is also included.