Facebook puts a 911 conspiracy theory as a trending topic
9/11 anniversary hoaxes are flooding Facebook. Image credit: Business Insider.

Fake 9/11 articles are spamming Facebook's Trending Topic

Yesterday, Facebook’s Trending Topic removed a 9/11 fake article after having promoted it since Wednesday, September 7. The story in question was the leading link for the topic “September 11th Anniversary,” and addressed a theory about the 9/11 attacks.

Public criticisms led Facebook to drop the write-up listing from the search results page. After erasing the topic, a similar one, titled “September 11 Memorials and Services” appeared in the timeline with a leading link to a Time Magazine article.

The controversial article, titled “September 11: The footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers,'” was written by Rachel O’Donoghue of Daily Star, a British daily tabloid newspaper.

Rachel O'Donoghue's Twitter profile pic
Rachel O’Donoghue’s Twitter profile pic. Image credit: TheUSBPort/Twitter.

A Facebook spokesperson said they were aware a hoax article showed up on the trending topics list and that they had removed it as a temporary way to deal with the issue. The list has promoted two fake news since Facebook decided to get rid of human editors last month.

Facebook doesn’t have anything to deal with hoaxes

However, according to the Trending Topics guidelines that Facebook released in August 2016, the human review team is still responsible for publishing all algorithmically detected topics that reflect real-world events.

A week before the 9/11 hoax, Trending Topics listed another hoax story. The leading link was an article published on endingthefed.com. It claimed Fox News exposed reporter Megyn Kelly was a traitor and got fired for backing Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election 2016.

Reactions to this first incident prompted Facebook to take down the topic and issue an apology. The social network promised a more accurate and quicker detection of fake and satirical news stories.

How does Facebook Trending Topics work?

The Facebook Trending Topics algorithm has several tasks. One is to identify potential trends based on the number of mentions within Facebook. Another is to pull excerpts directly from news stories.

Previously a team of humans handled the latter task, but they were replaced by an algorithm because of their alleged biases. However, the entire process isn’t fully automated, and humans still have to ensure the quality of the topics that made it to the trending list.

The main problem is not the topics but the fake leading links that have emerged. Section 4 of the guidelines details the team’s standard procedure. In it, there’s not a single step concerning such links.

Source: Tech Times‎