- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Facebook apologized Monday for promoting a fake story on its list of trending news articles only three days after the social network replaced its team of content curators with a computer algorithm.

For several hours Monday, Facebook’s “Trending” list prominently touted an article that erroneously claimed Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had been fired from the network for being “a closet liberal who actually wants Hillary to win,” referring to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The article was published by the partisan news site “End the Fed” alongside a story that suggests former President Bill Clinton wants to rebuild Detroit with Syrian refugees, and Ms. Kelly’s name is misspelled the second sentence. Nonetheless, Facebook explained in the aftermath that the article had been automatically approved for its Trending stories list before its editors were able to remove it several hours later.

“This was a mistake for which we apologize, and it has been corrected,” Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations, told CBS News.

“We also want to share a bit more context on how it happened. A topic is eligible for Trending if it meets the criteria for being a real-world news event and there are a sufficient number of relevant articles and posts about that topic. Over the weekend, this topic met those conditions and the Trending review team accepted it thinking it was a real-world topic. We then re-reviewed the topic based on the likelihood that there were inaccuracies in the articles. We determined it was a hoax​, and it is no longer being shown in Trending. We’re working to make our detection of hoax and satirical stories quicker and more accurate,” Mr. Osofsky said.

The incident appears to be the first negative consequence to result from Facebook’s firing of its news curators only a few days earlier. Quartz, a digital news site, reported Friday that Facebook had abruptly laid off more than a dozen contractors who had up until then been tasked with writing and editing brief summaries breaking down the day’s most popular news stories.

“The Trending team will now be staffed entirely by engineers, who will work to check that topics and articles surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy,” Quartz reported Friday.

Facebook’s decision to replace its human editorial staff with a computer algorithm followed the release of a Gizmodo article earlier this year in which several of the social network’s former news curators claimed they were instructed to suppress articles of interest to conservative readers.

At the time Facebook defended its user of human curators and rejected claims of bias, calling its Trending list a “high-quality product, consistent with Facebook’s deep commitment to being a platform for people of all viewpoints.”

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