Following the firing of its entire trending news team, Facebook has immediately hit a snag with its automated replacement. Despite years of ‘training,’ the algorithm was quick to follow up on stories that people on Facebook were talking about, even if they were false ones. Within 72 hours, it was promoting an entirely fake story regarding a U.S. journalist.
“Breaking: Fox news exposes traitor Megyn Kelly, kicks her out for backing Hilary,” reads the headline that was doing the rounds on Facebook over the weekend. While this might show a slight shift in the type of news Facebook reports – since it was accused of anti-conservative bias earlier this year – the story was completely false, suggesting that the news algorithm still needs a lot of work.
Ironically, it was due to the criticism of bias that Facebook let go all of its news editors, assuming that an automated system of curation would be far more accurate. Funnily enough though, while it may be harder to accuse a machine of political bias, it’s far easier to point out its mistakes, as has been the case with this latest news gaff.
Traditionally Facebook trending editors would look over headlines and excerpts that the algorithm grabbed to make sure that there were no obvious falsehoods being discussed on the site. If there were no big stories doing the rounds, then they were also trained to link to interesting content that people might want to read more about.
However with them gone, Facebook is left scrambling as its algorithm fell flat at the first hurdle. It will be interesting to see what changes Facebook makes going forward and whether it may look to re-add some measure of human oversight to the news algorithm in the future.
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KitGuru Says: This sort of automated story promotion is rather dangerous for Facebook. It would be interesting to see how she would fair, if Kelly decided that this was defamation and took the social network to court. You’d have to imagine with the follow up coverage that she would have a decent shot.
[Thanks Washington Post]