Completely fake “news” now showing up as trending news stories.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg often says of his company, “We are a tech company, not a media company. We build the tools. We do not produce any comment.”
It is true that Facebook does not employ any editors or reporters (more about that in a moment), but its publishing platform is the most powerful in the world, and it is often full of fake stories. Now Facebook finds itself under increasing pressure to do something about the hundreds, if not thousands of totally made-up stories that are shared on the site each day.
Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. adults use Facebook, and 44 percent of them get news there according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. One imagines that many of Facebook’s 1.13 billion daily users worldwide also get updates on the social network.
The News Feed is the modern front page, but Facebook’s leadership evidently doesn’t feel much of a responsibility over what it puts there — recall that Zuckerberg insists Facebook is a platform, not a media enterprise.
Facebook used to care more about accuracy in its news feeds. The team once had an entire team of journalists whose job was to select stories for its “Trending” news topic. Then, after pressure from conservatives who claimed the trending stories had a liberal slant, Facebook made a change. It laid off the entire editorial staff, and the result was not pretty.
Just two days after Facebook laid off the entire editorial staff of its Trending news team, it seems the robots left in charge of making decisions have already been fooled. On Sunday (Aug. 28), a fake news story about Fox anchor Megyn Kelly ended up in the Trending section of the social network’s homepage.
The story, which falsely claimed that Kelly had been fired, had over 200,000 likes on Facebook. It was finally removed from the trending section of the homepage early this morning, Aug. 29.
Facebook made a big mistake when it laid off the contractors who had been managing the Trending topics section for about two years. According to reports, they were given an hour to turn in their phones and computers and to exit Facebook’s New York office.
Reportedly, 26 people were laid off — 19 curators and seven copy editors. Those journalists had the ability to override the technology used to initially promote news stories on Facebook and place it in your timeline. But now the process is completely controlled by an algorithm — as you might expect from a tech company.
And now Facebook is full of fake stories with apparently no one watching over the whole mess.That’s all great news to all the web publishers who deliberately write sensational fake news and post the stories on Facebook. Their goal is to draw traffic and clicks from websites so they can make money on advertising.
Last year, The Washington Post wrote about one website publisher who was making as much as $10,000 a day by publishing fake news on Facebook.
With that kind of money available, it’s likely we’re going to keep seeing lots more fake stories on Facebook — unless Zuckerberg does an about face and gets real journalists involved again.