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The Washington Post Tracked Facebook's Trending Topics For 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles ( 113

An alarming number of people rely on social media, including and especially Facebook, for news. Over the past few months, we have seen how Facebook's Trending Topics feature is often biased, and moreover, how sometimes fake news slips through its filter. The Washington Post monitored the website for over three weeks and found that Facebook is still struggling to get its algorithm right. From the report: The Megyn Kelly incident was supposed to be an anomaly. An unfortunate one-off. A bit of (very public, embarrassing) bad luck. But in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system -- and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended -- the site has repeatedly promoted "news" stories that are actually works of fiction. As part of a larger audit of Facebook's Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record. "I'm not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended," one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. "It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code."The Post adds that "there's no guarantee" that it was able to catch every hoax, since it looked at Trending feature only once every hour.
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The Washington Post Tracked Facebook's Trending Topics For 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @03:32PM (#53064133)

    The feature is called "Trending", not "Factual News". If I photoshop a picture of my cat flying a jet and it goes viral... it's trending. That doesn't mean he's actually flying the jet.

    Here's some news for you... Satire can be popular.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Funny how that works, how she can commit crimes and the media chooses to ignore her evil ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what a similar analysis on the Washington Post would show.

    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      They're both (the Washington Post and Facebook) doing better than top two US candidates.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @03:36PM (#53064163) Journal
    Did they have any fake or inaccurate stories over the same period of time? How many corrections did they have to make? The New York Times had to make two corrections [] to an article about Gary Johnson's Aleppo gaffe on the same day.
    • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @03:38PM (#53064173) Journal
      Correction: Oops, it was 3 corrections. My bad.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love the juvenile attempts to fact check and record correct by the US media. You can't make this shit up.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @03:37PM (#53064169)

    Stupid, fake news and racist trolling trends on Facebook?
    Say it ain't so.

  • by ewhac ( 5844 )
    You do realize, of course, that there exists an entire "industry" devoted to manipulating automated search systems to push snake oil and all manner of other bullshit in to your face. Once you remove the human element to identify and remove the obvious garbage, what you're left with is what the armies of trolls are furiously clicking on throughout the night.
  • Ironic (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Kind of ironic coming from WashPo which basically has become a PR outlet for the DNC

  • Hillary has created the most effective propaganda arm ever made.

    Hillary Propaganda Divisions ABC,NBC,CBS,CNN, NYT, Bumberg, Huffy Post, NewYanker, Politicon, Politifalsehoods, Last Twit Tonight,Washington Post [] [] []

    • You loose credibility when you make fun of the names of the news outlets you are trying to impugn.
    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      I saw you linking those articles the other day, and read the Intercept one. The leak doesn't prove that the entire mainstream media is in bed with Hillary, following her every command. It shows that one journalist would reliably write articles on provided topics about Hillary, and not always in a completely favorable light. It also says that Hillary had an off-the-record get-together with various members of the press, before she announced her bid for the presidency. Probably, the journalists wanted to know

      • by grcumb ( 781340 )

        I saw you linking those articles the other day, and read the Intercept one. The leak doesn't prove that the entire mainstream media is in bed with Hillary, following her every command.

        Maybe I can shed a little light here, as a professional journalist who often talks off the record with people in positions of power.

        The question you should be asking is not whether so-and-so has a friendly relationship with Candidate X. The question is, what is the effect of that relationship on their reporting? And lest you think that I'm siding with the reporters on this one... don't. I see a far-too-common tendency among reporters to shy away from criticising people with whom they have a relationship. I

    • If you organization has "American", "America's", or "Patriot" in its name or in how it describes itself, I'm automatically skeptical. Those aren't qualities you can just lay claim to. They come from how the rest of us see you.

    • ...give credit where it is due. Love it or hate it FNC has perfected the art of propaganda in the US media.

    • And if any of those organizations were promoting trump you'd be declaring them the be unassailable bastions of goodness, purity and sanity. Face it, you're letting your fear cloud your judgement.
    • Your giving her too much credit, it takes a village after all; she just fine-tuned an existing infra-structure.

  • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @03:58PM (#53064321)

    I am glad that I am not caught out by this. I go to serious, bona fide news websites to get my news. They are always objective, accurate, impartial, don't put some slant on stories, and above all, do not ignore some stories that I think are important.

    So let's see how many whooshes this piece of sarcasm creates...

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @04:09PM (#53064383) Journal
    So how many stories total did they track? Is 5 stories half the stories? Is it 5% of the stories? Without context '5 stories' is meaningless.
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      Facebook is about providing a personal echo chamber experience to each user. If a Washington Post journalist gets a lot of fake news stories in their personalized feed, what does that say about the Washington Post?
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @04:18PM (#53064457)

    Facebook is entertainment, not news

    Facebook is entertainment, not news

    Facebook is entertainment, not news

    (/. won't let me repeat that as many times as I had wanted to...)

    • TBF, most news is also entertainment.

    • News is entertainment, not news.
      If it were news, it would be boring.
    • Facebook is entertainment, not news

      It's not about what it's designed for, it's about how it's used. And people are increasingly treating whatever trends at Facebook as actual news.

      Facebook is news if enough of the population treats it as such.

  • It's like a mirror (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It would only be news if WaPo ran an expose on their biased reporting, see

    Everyone knows faceplant's news is crap but WaPo isn't that much better in terms of integrity.

  • by fropenn ( 1116699 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @04:42PM (#53064673)
    There were accurate, real news stories posted on Facebook? I must have the wrong friends.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @04:44PM (#53064687) Homepage

    I hate to defend Facebook here, but if you RTFA, you will see that some of the supposed "fake" and "inaccurate" articles were actually spoofs. People posted them because they were funny. That's like stopping by The Onion and complaining that the news is biased and inaccurate.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why are you fools still using Facebook (or FAILbook, which I think is more accurate)? It's BAD for your life overall. Dump Facebook!
  • Seriously... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @04:56PM (#53064799)

    ...anybody that chooses Facebook as their primary news source deserves all they get, including ridicule.

    • Same with Google News. [] Lately, only Trump bashing or Clinton praising editorials dominate the top stories. But I'm sure it is just a coincidence, [] after all, Google says trust them and that they are not using their position as a major news aggregator to influence public opinion.
      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        Yeah I'm VERY disillusioned with the (total lack of) integrity of ALL the mainstream US media.
        I mean its always been known that the big media are biassed, MSNBC, Fox, WaPo etc have always made that clear, however this election has proven that ALL the mainstream media has absolutely no moral scruples and have all completely and utterly sold out to the left.

  • I know that pilling up on Facebook is the new trend now, but just so people know, that number can't be much different from several news portals, blogs and other social networks that are being used as news sources nowadays.
    Facebook shouldn't be considered a source for reliable news, but several other portals also shouldn't in the very same way.

    Arguably, traditional media is just on the same page, as they'll often use Internet sources for their news too nowadays.

    So, in the end, the recommendation stays the sa

  • by sbrown123 ( 229895 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @05:25PM (#53065019) Homepage

    Washington Post monitors Facebook Trending for three weeks and find it is working better than the Washington Post. Journalist scramble to discredit system out of fear of being replaced.

  • Where's the control? How many fake and inaccurate stories are published by other media?
  • An absolute number like "5" or "8" is meaningless. Even the most serious newspapers get hoaxed or lie sometimes.

    The only thing I found in TFA is this:

    Our results shouldn’t be taken as conclusive: Since Facebook personalizes its trends to each user, and we tracked results only during work hours, there’s no guarantee that we caught every hoax. But the observation that Facebook periodically trends fake news still stands — if anything, we’ve underestimated how often it occurs.

    You said it : inconclusive. What is important is the ratio. If you reviewed 20 articles and 5 are fake, that's horrible. If it is 5 out of 500, it needs improvement but it is not so bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I believe it linked to a story that linked to the real scientific evidence of 9/11

    THIS is what had the washington post brainwashed misinformed up in arms.. the truth actually trending, instead of some useless fluff story or propaganda.

  • Rival extensions of the DNC disguised as news point fingers at how terribly sourced their content is
  • LePereZg:~$ apropos facebook
    facebook: nothing appropriate.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin