It’s been a long time since Facebook was exclusively used as a social network, despite its technical status as such. Since its inception in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg’s website has grown to become a multi-billion dollar business at the forefront of its industry – however, in 2018, its sovereignty slipped a little with controversy surrounding data the platform shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica coming to light. Cambridge Analytica has since bitten the dust – yet Facebook continues, albeit with a chunk taken out of its reputation and, for some time, its net worth. Beyond this, however, it has also been at the center of concern over the rise in ‘fake news’ – unverified stories – and it appears to be taking steps to eradicate the spread of such content moving forwards.
Facebook is now much more than a social network – for many people, it is a source of news and breaking events, a place for digital magazine stories and memes to be shared – Facebook does ultimately still want their millions of users to continue sharing their lives online as well as consume world events and breaking stories – and one feature, the ‘Trending’ ticker, has effectively allowed the platform to continue as a news platform. The feature, akin to Twitter’s ground-breaking ‘Trending Topics’ bulletin, has been a part of the Facebook UI since 2014 – allowing users to see which topics are being discussed the most across the network – however, with the rise in need for fake news to be eradicated and filtered out, the veracity and worth of the feature has come into question over time.
Facebook looks set to discontinue to controversial feature, though it appears that the network has more of a focus on news than ever before – at least, according to Head of News Products at the firm, Alex Hardiman, who advises that a shift in focus and/or methodology may be on the cards for future releases. “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,” Hardiman advised. Following allegations that the Trending ticker had reportedly restricted conservative viewpoints and news only two years ago, it is hardly surprising that moves are being made to help streamline the news and data that users can consume.
2018 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for Facebook – we will have to wait and see what arises in the wake of the Trending feature.