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Facebook scraps 'Trending Topics' section as fake news debate rolls on

The feature in users' pages has courted controversy over the years since it was introduced
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Facebook says it will kill off the section next week

The debate on the social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and its convoluted relationship with news took another twist Friday as it revealed it was pulling its 'trending topics' section for users.

The section is said by the tech behemoth to help users "discover interesting and relevant topics being discussed on Facebook ..".

But now the company apparently sees the feature, which has courted much controversy over the years, as more of a thorn in its side than an asset and is scrapping it next week.

It was rolled out to users' pages four years ago, but accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks back to the original publishers and never made a return on investment, says Facebook.

And since then, the section has run into much criticism and issues, as so-called 'fake news' was said to often surface under the banner "Trending Topics".

READ: Facebook fights wave of bad publicity with a new 'Clear History' button

Controversies concerning the section for Facebook include a hoax about 9/11, and a false article about then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

According to one research center, 44% of U.S. adults get some or all their news via Facebook.

Underlining the strength of feeling on the issue of news and Facebook, it emerged this week that Papua New Guinea wants to shut down the website while it researches how the platform is actually used.

The country's communications minister reportedly said the downtime will allow the identification of the country’s fake users, as well as those who upload “false or misleading” information or pornographic content.

Blanket bans

China, Iran and North Korea all have blanket bans on Facebook, and other countries have blocked it temporarily, during protests or in the run-up to elections.

Facebook now says it will test new approaches to disseminating news from publishers, to include a "breaking news" test where publishers can apply that label to some of their posts in News Feed.

Facebook shares added 0.94% to US$193.59.

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