Facebook will remove the Trending news box that’s sat to the right of the desktop News Feed for the last four years, the company said today. The removal comes after years of criticism around how Facebook picked stories to sit in the Trending box, not to mention more than a year of struggles with the reliability of any news being distributed through its platform.
The Trending box will be removed next week. Facebook says it was active in five countries and accounted for “less than 1.5 percent of clicks to news publishers on average.” The company is currently testing other ways to deliver news, including breaking news labels and a section that collects local stories.
Backlash against the Trending box started in 2016 after Gizmodo published a report saying that former Facebook editors — who were able to curate headlines, to a degree — claimed they “routinely suppressed” conservative stories. That allegations seem tame in light of everything that happened next (the entire platform was co-opted for frequently conservative propaganda), but it led to Facebook firing its editorial team and was in many ways a precursor to some of the rethinking it’s been doing on news distribution.
On top of all that, the Trending box was just bad. It’s been a long-running joke that Facebook runs a day behind Twitter when it comes to news and jokes, and the Trending section rarely helped matters. The system does seem to have gotten faster at picking up stories over time, but it’s still hard to imagine it being the place someone learns about a major story.
Facebook says the removal of Trending will “make way” for future news products. It’s not clear if that means it’s planning something else for the side of the News Feed, or if it just means that it’s taking a different approach to distributing news in the first place.