Computer Scientists: Facebook’s Trending Algorithm Won’t Stop False Stories

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Facebook’s trending product has promoted fake news repeatedly, and according to computer scientists, it may just get worse as the social network scales Trending Topics internationally, reports BuzzFeed. Forty-four percent of Americans read news on the social media network, but it has promoted false news in its Trending box in recent weeks, including a theory that Presidents Obama and Bush conspired to rig the 2008 election to satirical claims that Siri would jump out of iPhones.

Less human oversight promotes more false news

Facebook is preparing to deploy the Trending feature to its international users, but experts are warning that its current algorithm-driven approach with minimum editorial sight may not be an accurate match for viral lies.

Fil Menczer, a computer scientist at Indiana University, said automatic (computational) fact-checking, discrimination of true and fake news stories, and detection of misinformation based on content are all extremely difficult problems. Menczer, who is supervising a project to automatically identify viral misinformation and social media memes, said they are very far from solving them.

Three top researchers who have been building systems to identify misinformation and rumors on social media platforms to debunk and flag them told BuzzFeed News that Facebook made a big challenge even harder when it fired its team of editors for Trending Topics. Kalina Bontcheva, who leads the EU-funded PHEME project, said decreasing the amount of human oversight for Trending increases the likelihood of failures.

She thinks people are always going to attempt to outsmart these algorithms and notes that they have seen this for a long time with search engine optimization.

“I’m sure that once in a while there is going to be a very high-profile failure,” she added.

Facebook allows celebs to push brands on pages

Meanwhile, Facebook is extending its rules now about how verified profiles can share branded posts and is officially allowing influential personalities and stars to monetize their Facebook audiences. This was already happening, although it was against the social network’s rules, notes Mashable. Facebook’s definition of “branded content” covers all photos, videos and text that feature a third-party advertiser, sponsor or product.

Until now, celebrities have used the network as a platform to boost the brands that sponsor them, but the social network’s rules had prohibited such practice before to keep ads within its own sales arm and control aggressive marketing, notes Mashable. This expansion reminds celebs and other notable users that they must play by the rules and gives the social network more control over how posts are presented.

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