Three days after Facebook announced it was replacing the humans that write the Trending Topics descriptions with robots, the company’s algorithm chose a fake article about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to appear in its list of trending stories.
The top story on Trending was about how Fox News icon Megyn Kelly was a pro-Clinton “traitor” and claimed that the cable channel has “Kick(ed) her out for backing Hillary.” (They have not.)
Screengrab of the news post
The story, which falsely claimed that Kelly had been fired, had over 200,000 likes on Facebook. It was finally removed from the trending section of the homepage on August 29.
In a bid to make the Trending feature more automated, Facebook on August 26 fired a group of contractors hired to write and edit the short descriptions that accompanied each trend.
They were given an hour to hand in their phones and computers, and to vacate Facebook’s New York office, with roughly two weeks’ severance.
After laying off 26 editors, the only humans now involved in Trending are engineers working on tweaking the algorithm. Surely, it still needs a few more tweaks to weed out bad “news”. Moreover, there are also people involved in the process to “confirm that a topic is tied to a current news event in the real world.” It is quite easy for people to get fooled by fake news and a host of fake news sites have made it more difficult. Facebook’s hoax detection system relies on user-submitted notifications that a link is fishy. In case a user misses out on reporting a fake story, so does Facebook.
The removal of human editors and hand-written descriptions last week came after Gizmodo reported stories with a conservative tone or subject were being suppressed from the Trending section back in May. CEO Mark Zuckerberg find it shocking and said there was no evidence that the report was true.
Since removing the Kelly story, Facebook Trending has returned to real news stories, such as indecent acts with McDonalds chicken sandwiches, actor Will Smith going to a party.