If you’re ever been on Facebook(which you of-course have!), then there’s a one off chance that you’d have noticed the Trending Topics section on the right of the news feed. This trending news section has recently been criticised for supressing some of the more important and relevant content(like Black Lives Matter), in favor of less important and hoax stories.
To forgo the same, Facebook had recently announced that it was parting ways with most of its human editorial team and introducing a more algorithmically driven process into the mix. These human editors were the ones responsible for weeding out inaccurate results from trending stories. The company had also ditched news description in favor of a minimal and cleaner approach with just the name of the trending topic.
But, within days of losing the human editors, Facebook drove straight towards trouble as the new module started pushing out fake — and completely false — stories about Fox journalist Megyn Kelly. At that instant, the company had said this was an anomoly and promised that it would curate the Trending Topics section using the an algorithmic approach similar to that used in the News Feed. But, is seems little or nothing has changed on the platform.
According to a new research from the Washington Post, Facebook is still pretty negligent towards the results of its Trending Topics algorithm. The Post conducted a small experiment where it logged the news stories, from across four different accounts, that were trending every hour for a period of two consecutive weeks. During this research, Facebook surfaced at least five ‘indisputably fake’ trending stories and three of those were ‘profoundly inaccurate’.
Though the Trending Topics section of the social media platform is supposed to serve as a one-stop shop for daily news, but it has been blatantly murdering it by pushing fake stories to the front. The Post cites one of the most hilarious examples, where the company surfaced news about iPhone’s magical new features. This article was sourced from Firstpost’s satarical publication Faking News, which stated that Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on stage that the iPhone 8 will have ‘Siri physically coming out of the phone and doing all the household chores’. Isn’t that just hysterical!? Not, for you Facebook! Not, for you!
In addition, Washington Post has also found evidence that the ‘trending topics’ algorithm is still not fine-tuned and surfaced straight-up ‘direct’ links to press releases, posts from websites such as Medium and music or apps from iTunes or other stores as well. The fact behind reporting these instances being that none of the above are any form of trending news pieces.
It has, thus, concluded that since the Trending Topics are curated and personalized for each user, you should take the end result with a grain of salt. But what one can easily deduce from the report is that Facebook’s algorithmically driven trending system still needs a bit of polishing.