Just two days after Facebook laid off the entire editorial staff of its Trending news team, the robots left in charge have already been fooled into posting a fake story.
Over the weekend, 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.
The article’s promotion came after Facebook made significant changes to the influential Trending module, removing some human influence and making it more “automated,” in an effort to address bias claims that it has faced in recent months.
The changes see the module reduced to topic names and small headlines (essentially keywords) instead of snippets written and published by human beings.
Facebook insists that humans are still used to curate the news. Topics are served up by software that monitors the network for the most talked-about news, which is then filtered for publication on the module by human beings who are charged with filtering to make sure the topics are indeed newsworthy.
In wake of the report about Kelly, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company was working to strengthen its detection of fake stories.
In a statement to CBS News, Facebook owned up to its error in promoting a bogus story:
“This was a mistake for which we apologize, and it has been corrected,” Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations, said.
“We also want to share a bit more context on how it happened. A topic is eligible for Trending if it meets the criteria for being a real-world news event and there are a sufficient number of relevant articles and posts about that topic. Over the weekend, this topic met those conditions and the Trending review team accepted it thinking it was a real-world topic. We then re-reviewed the topic based on the likelihood that there were inaccuracies in the articles. We determined it was a hoax and it is no longer being shown in Trending. We’re working to make our detection of hoax and satirical stories quicker and more accurate.”