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Facebook Killing Controversial ‘Trending’ Feature, Breaking News Alerts and More Coming

Facebook kills 'Trending' feature, tests breaking news indicator

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LinkedIn faced probe for Facebook ads targeting 18 mn non-members. Pixabay
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Facebook has finally decided to do away with its controversial “Trending” feature to make way for “future news experiences” which may include a breaking news notifications.

“We will remove Trending from Facebook next week and we will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API,” Alex Hardiman, Facebook’s Head of News Products said in a statement on Friday.

Facebook introduced the Trending feature in 2014 aiming to help people discover news topics that were popular across the community.

But for this feature that show a collection of headlines, the social networking giant soon faced allegations of political bias.

The headlines were initially selected by human editors and a former contractor on the project claimed that Facebook used this feature to promote liberal causes and suppress conservative issues, NBC News reported.

Facebook later removed the human editors and in its bid to appear neutral put in place an algorithm to decide what would find a place in the Trending section.

However, the algorithm went haywire, at times promoting hoax stories and offensive headlines, including one about a man masturbating with a McDonald’s sandwich, the NBC News report said.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

Facebook said that the feature was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of clicks to news publishers on average.

“From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” Hardiman said.

“We’re exploring new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news that matters to them, while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources,” she said.

Facebook said it is running a test in several countries including in India to let publishers put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed.

“We’re also testing breaking news notifications,” Hardiman said.

Also Read: Facebook Losing out to YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat Among US Teens

In addition to this, Facebook is also testing a dedicated section 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 organisations.

“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,” Hardiman added.

“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,” she said. (IANS)

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Facebook Dismisses Report of Journalists’ Frustration With Fact-Checking

The report quoted another factchecker as saying that he was demoralised

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A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook has dismissed a media report that claimed journalists working as factcheckers for the social media giant are frustrated and are ending partnerships as the company failed to use their expertise to combat misinformation.

A report in The Guardian on Thursday said outside reporters have lost trust in Facebook, “which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work”.

Reacting to the report, Meredith Carden, Head of News Integrity Partnerships at Facebook, said the Guardian story presents several inaccuracies.

“Contrary to a claim in the story, we absolutely do not ask fact-checkers to prioritise debunking content about our advertisers,” Carden said in statement.

The report, she added, is based primarily on the account of a single fact-checker who has not been involved with the Facebook fact-checking program for six months.

“We have been committed to fighting misinformation for years now and have strong relationships with our third-party fact-checking partners — we now have 35 partners in 24 countries around the world,” said Facebook.

The report quoted Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years, as saying that the social network is using journalists for handling crisis PR.

“They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck… They clearly don’t care,” said Binkowski, who now runs her own fact-checking site which does not partner with Facebook.

According to Facebook, it values the ongoing partnerships and the work that these journalists do.

The third-party fact checking programme was launched in 2016 after the US Presidential election.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“We’re planning to expand the programme to even more countries in 2019,” said Carden.

According to Facebook, three separate researches have found that the overall volume of false news on Facebook is decreasing since it put up third-party fact-checking programme and other anti-misinformation measures in place.

However, The Guardian report said the company has ignored journalists’ concerns.

Some newsroom leaders said “they had grown increasingly resentful of Facebook, especially following revelations that the company had paid a consulting firm to go after opponents by publicising their association with billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros”.

A New York Times investigation in November suggested that the social network hired a Republican-owned political consulting and PR firm that “dug up dirt on its competitors” including Soros.

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Reacting to the report, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg denied they had any prior knowledge about this firm.

“It was later revealed that Sheryl Sandberg had directed her staff to research Soros’s financial interests after he publicly criticised the company,” the Guardian report said.

The report quoted another factchecker as saying that he was demoralised.

“They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” said the anonymous factchecker. (IANS)