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After replacing human editors with an algorithm, Facebook ended up with a fake Trending news story

Reuters/Dado Ruvic
Who watches the algorithms?
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

That didn’t take long.

Just two days after Facebook laid off the entire editorial staff of its Trending news team, it seems the robots left in charge of making decisions have already been fooled. On Sunday (Aug. 28), a fake news story about Fox anchor Megyn Kelly ended up in the Trending section of the social network’s homepage.

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 early this morning, Aug. 29.

Facebook wasn’t immediately available for comment on the Kelly story.

On Aug. 26, Facebook laid off a group of contractors that had been running the Trending topics section for roughly two years. 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. Sources estimated to Quartz that between 15-18 people were laid off that day. Since then, a different source has confirmed that in fact 19 curators and 7 copy editors—a total of 26 people—were actually dismissed.

Facebook previously used an algorithm to collect user-posted stories, which editors would curate for its Trending section. The editors would then write a description summarizing the news.

Now, the algorithm works on its own. Facebook said Friday that the only humans now involved in Trending will be engineers working on tweaking the algorithm. It seems that it still needs a few more tweaks to weed out bad “news”.

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, and actor Rob Lowe insulting a conservative pundit.

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