Facebook AI Continues To Push Fake Trending News Stories Sans Human Intervention

This just in! Unicorns just discovered in Yellowstone National Park!

It probably goes without saying, but that little bit of news is pure fiction. Unfortunately, it is not entirely unlike something that may appear in your Facebook feed according to Intersect, which recently conducted an experiment that detected a number of fake news stories.

Intersect logged every trending news stories across four different Facebook during business hours between August 31st and September 22nd, 2016. They were able to detect at least five fictional stories. They also noted that blog posts from sites like Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes were included under Facebook’s news feed.

facebook newsroom

These news stories did not just contain a few minor accuracies. Some of the stories were flagrantly fake and should have never appeared in a respectable news feed. One popular story, from a site literally named Faking News, boasted that Siri would magically come out the iPhone 8. like a twenty-first century genie, and respond to user’s demands. On a less comical note, one story claimed that 9/11 was a “controlled demolition”.

Facebook’s “Trending” feature was originally supposed to be a collaboration between computers and editors. An algorithm picked out the most-discussed and important topics of the day, editors verified that these news stories were true and reliable, and another algorithm spit out the approved news stories to Facebook users.

facebook headquarters

This entire process, however, came to a screeching stop in May when Facebook was accused of having a political bias. Facebook fired its editorial staff and replaced them with engineers whose job was to merely approve of the topics the algorithms picked up.

One former Facebook team member remarked, “I’m not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended. It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code.”

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Vice President of Product Management, recently noted that changes will be made soon to the Trending feature. He did not indicate how Facebook plans to squash the fake stories.