Facebook Trending Topics Hosts Fake Story Despite Changes

Apple diversity reportPhoto by geralt (Pixabay)

Facebook posted false news about Megyn Kelly in its controversial Trending Topics section. The fake story suggested that the popular host had been fired by Fox News for supporting Hillary Clinton, according to the Daily Mail. On Sunday evening, the social networking site deleted the post, but it was shared thousands of times before then. Since Roger Ailes’ sex assault scandal, there have been several rumors about the host’s future at the network.

Error despite recent changes

What’s interesting to note is that this fake story comes after recent changes to the Trending Topics section aimed at removing human bias. On Friday, the social network said it would not be writing descriptions to go with news stories any longer. The tech giant has denied any bias, but it has sought to reassure users that it is not showing any favoritism when it highlights stories that are drawing user comments on its platform.

Topics are actually selected by an algorithm that considers how frequently users share or post articles, says the social network. Earlier this year, the feature prompted controversy with critics who alleged that Facebook’s news curators were deliberately excluding stories from politically conservative outlets. The tech giant denied the allegations.

In its blog post, the social networking giant said it looked into the claims and found no evidence of systematic bias.

“Making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” the company said.

Facebook removes editorial staff

Because of these changes, users will just see topics and the number of people talking about them rather than seeing story summaries in the trending list. If the user hovers over a topic, it will show them an “automatically selected original news story” and a brief story pulled directly from the top article. The topics appearing on the trending section will now appear as a single word or short phrase and will indicate how many people are discussing the story on the social networking site.

According to Quartz, the social media giant has removed its whole editorial staff — around 15-18 workers contracted through a third party — on the Trending team. Now the trending team will be staffed by engineers who will check if the articles and topics surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy.

It is possible that even by removing human writers, the company will not be able to eliminate full human bias, which can still find its way into algorithms.

Photo by DonkeyHotey

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About the Author

Aman Jain
Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at [email protected]

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