Facebook in Fake News Feed Shocker

Sacking of human editors sees a surge of fake news stories on social networking site

Facebook Fake News image
All the fake news that is fit to print: Facebook has landed themselves in hot water with the sacking of human news editors. Image file includes newspaper outline by RTimages, Moonscape by Helen Field, and AVRO Lancaster Bomber silhouette by Mark Fearon (all via Shutterstock).

(Westminster chimes)

Lead Newscaster: Transfer Deadline Day sees David Luiz move to West Didsbury and Chorlton.

Second Newscaster: Donald Trump plans to build a wall around the M25 motorway.

Lead Newscaster: Also tonight… Hillary Clinton appeals to Brexiteers at a Manchester conference.

Second Newscaster: Facebook under fire for fake news feeds.

Lead Newscaster: Also in sport, crown green bowls is set to become an Olympic sport.

Spot the genuine news story of the quintet of headlines: it is the fourth news item in our sketch. This week, Net Sixty Six have learned about Facebook’s fake news feeds. The social networking giant has fired eighteen editorial contractors. This has seen a move towards the greater use of algorithms for the site’s trending topics.

Fact x Importance = Fake News?

The transition from human-powered to algorithm-based trending trends could be seen as a farrago, to say the least. Under the subject of Watch Dogs 2, a video game on hacking and cybersecurity, users clicking the subject were treated to a viral video. That of a video clip of a dog who hasn’t seen his owner for two years.

This was nothing compared with a story about Megyn Kelly’s alleged links with Hillary Clinton. The Fox News anchorwoman, according to a right-wing libertarian blog, had favoured the Democrats’ presidential candidate. Fox News picked up on the story, in spite of the post’s salacious nature.

Putting it mildly, Megan was none-too-pleased with the episode. Facebook’s algorithms had kept the blog’s story on its trending topics for a few hours before the story got noticed.

Algorithm Agony

The reason behind this week’s blunders? Facebook’s long-term plan to automate its trending topics with light touch changes being made by a smaller workforce. When 100% human powered, each of the news sources was carefully curated. This would mean peer-reviewed sources or stories from highly renowned newspapers or sources like the Associated Press and Reuters.

With increased automation, the chances of seeing a Breitbart blog post are equal to that of finding The Daily Telegraph’s article on a similar subject. When carefully curated, editorial balance mattered. In spite of this, critics hit out at the conservative bias of its sources. With higher automation, the balance has been upset.

Facebook, You’ve Lost The News…!

Facebook, besides being a dependable source for promoting our websites, casual games, and baby pictures, is a news source. A May 2016 Pew Report article stated that almost half of US citizens get their current affairs fix from The Book of Face. It is also a valuable source for local stories; also a place for boosting the profile of dead tree newspapers.

With the latest algorithm changes from their trending topics, this reputation could be undermined. Instead of breaking news, click bait could reign supreme. At worst, Facebook’s fake news stories could turn its trending topics list into something of little difference to syndicated stories via sites like Taboola.

From our observations, Facebook seems to have ironed out the problems. Even so, there is no substitute for human powered content.

Stop Press

The lack of human editors has also seen links to lewd articles being seen on Facebook’s trending topics. Such as today’s link to Orlando Bloom’s… (Snip! – Ed).

Stop Press Fake News image
Words fail us. Honestly.

Net Sixty Six, 01 September 2016.