Facebook’s Trending section has had a pretty tough few weeks. Following claims that the section was being biased by human editors Facebook’s response has been to fire those humans and, as of last Friday, replace them with an algorithm.
How’s it going? Not well.
Within just 24 hours of it being handed over to the algorithm users reported seeing a story about Fox News host Megyn Kelly which it turns out is entirely fake.
Not content with featuring a fake story Facebook’s algorithm then featured a controversial story about an Saturday Night Live host using a particularly nasty four-letter word on rightwing pundit Ann Coulter.
Then as on last hurrah it started linking to an article showing a video of a man masturbating with a McDonald’s chicken sandwich.
Unsurprisingly, this did not go unnoticed by the public:
In a lengthy blogpost Facebook explained that it would be able to increase the scale of the Trending section by replacing human beings.
“Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarising topics by hand,” the company said in a blog post on Friday. “A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.”
It has also removed the small written summaries underneath the topics as a means of again reducing on human interference with the process.
According to the Guardian, sources revealed that Facebook’s old Trending team were fired without notice in a meeting where a security guard was present. The source goes on to say that each employee received four weeks’ severance pay.
In a comment to the Huffington Post US, a Facebook spokesperson explained that they had moved the responsibility of the Trending section to a new team:
“In this new version of Trending we no longer need to draft topic descriptions or summaries, and as a result we are shifting to a team with an emphasis on operations and technical skill sets, which helps us better support the new direction of the product,”