Maybe getting rid of human beings wasn’t a great idea after all.
If you spend any time on Facebook then you’ve probably seen them, either in your main news feed or in the “trending topics” section—clearly fake news stories, many focused on the latest conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
These are the kind of stories that Facebook’s editors used to weed out, but then the company fired them all after a controversy over allegations of political bias. Since then, the site has used algorithms to choose what shows up and when.
According to a recent experiment by the Washington Post, however, eliminating the human beings isn’t working that well—at least not at keeping out the fakes.
In order to see what Facebook considered a trending topic and why, the newspaper’s Intersect team started tracking what stories and links were trending every hour, and kept a record of them in a database.