Facebook fires trending team, and algorithm without humans goes crazy
Just months after the discovery that Facebook’s “trending” news module was curated and tweaked by human beings, the company has eliminated its editors and left the algorithm to do its job. The results, so far, are a disaster. Facebook announced late Friday that it had eliminated jobs in its trending module, the part of its news division where staff curated popular news for Facebook users. Over the weekend, the fully automated Facebook trending module pushed out a false story about Fox News host Megyn Kelly, a controversial piece about a comedian’s four-letter word attack on rightwing pundit Ann Coulter, and links to an article about a video of a man masturbating with a McDonald’s chicken sandwich.
In a blogpost, Facebook said the decision to drop people from the news module would allow it to operate at a greater scale.
“Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand,” wrote a company representative in the unattributed post. “A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.”
A source familiar with the matter told the Guardian that the trending team was fired without notice in a meeting with a security guard present. The ex-employees received four weeks’ severance.
In May, the Guardian published the guidelines used by Facebook’s Trending module team after Gizmodo revealed that the module was in fact curated by humans. The revelation fuelled accusations of potential bias at the social network, which has become the world’s largest distributor of news.
Proving once again that algorithms are stupid.