[Ed. – Revenge of the machines]
Earlier this year, Facebook denied criticisms that its Trending feature was surfacing news stories that were biased against conservatives. But in an abrupt reversal, the company fired all the human editors for Trending on Friday afternoon, replacing them with an algorithm that promotes stories based entirely on what Facebook users are talking about. Within 72 hours, according to the Washington Post, the top story on Trending was about how Fox News icon Megyn Kelly was a pro-Clinton “traitor” who had been fired (she wasn’t).
The original accusations of bias came from a disgruntled ex-editor at Facebook, who leaked internal Trending training materials to Gizmodo. The training package offered tips on, among other things, how to curate news from an RSS feed of reputable sources when the stories provided by Facebook users were false or repetitive. Though the human editors were always expendable—they were mostly there to train the Trending algorithm—they were still engaging in quality control to weed out blatant falsehoods and non-news like #lunch. And after Trending latched on to the fake Kelly scoop, it appears that human intervention might still be required to make Facebook’s algorithms a legitimate source of news after all.