"People tell us they want to stay informed about what is happening around them", wrote Alex Hardiman, Head of News Products at Facebook, in an announcement.
Facebook fired the team, and since then, algorithms have been largely responsible for governing what goes into the Trending sidebar, which is prominently displayed at the top of the desktop site.
The contractor claimed Facebook downplayed conservative issues and promoted liberal causes. "From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful", Facebook said in a blog post, which said Trending will be gone next week. But the trending section also proved problematic in ways that would presage Facebook's later problems with fake news, political balance and the limitations of artificial intelligence in managing the messy human world. It fit nicely into CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pledge just a year earlier to make Facebook its users' "personal newspaper".
The Trending section is no longer trending among Facebook users.
Facebook introduced a feature called Trending in 2014, and you can probably guess what it did even if you never touch Facebook.
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Facebook's reaction to that 2016 controversy - to pull human moderators off Trending Topics so it's stocked purely by an algorithm - has been cited as opening the door for larger scandals like electorate tampering and misinformation campaigns.
The Kelly hoax was supposed to be an anomaly, but a subsequent audit by The Intercept found other instances of trending stories that were indisputably fake or profoundly inaccurate.
Facebook is now testing new features, including a "breaking news" label that publishers can add to stories to distinguish them from other chatter.
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.
Pasquale said Facebook's new efforts represent "very slow steps" toward an acknowledgement that the company is making editorial judgments when it decides what news should be shown to users - and that it needs to empower journalists and editors to do so.
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.