It looks as if Facebook’s recent decision to fire its entire Trending Topics editorial team and bring more automation to its news section isn’t working out as well as it hoped. Over the weekend, algorithms pushed a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to the top of the trending list.
The article claimed Kelly was “on her way out” of the conservative news channel for being “a closet liberal who actually wants Hillary to win.” It was published by a website called EndingTheFed.com, which features headlines such as: “What Obama Has to Say About ‘White Folks’ Will Make Your Blood Boil.” The site linked the Kelly story to another website called Conservative101.
Facebook removed its editorial staff because it wants to use a more algorithmically driven process in it Trending Topics section. A small group of engineers continues to monitor items for newsworthiness, making sure popular topics such as #lunch, for example, don’t appear.
A Facebook spokesperson said the Kelly story was accepted over the weekend because of the number of relevant articles and posts, but it was taken down yesterday due to its inaccuracy. The company said it was working on improving ways to detect fake and satirical stories.
Other headlines recently appeared in the Trending Topics module that may have been picked out by the former curators for being inappropriate or offensive. These included an item with a sexist term used to describe Ann Coulter during a Comedy Central roast of Rob Lowe, and the #McChicken hashtag, which went viral after a video of a man enjoying a McChicken sandwich in an 'unconventional' manner was posted online.