Facebook Automates Trending Topics, Fake Story Begins Trending Soon After

Original Round Blue Facebook Web IconLast Friday, Facebook announced in a blog post that it would change the way its Trending Topics news feed works. Now, instead of humans writing the descriptions for news stories, the copy will be automatically generated.

“Making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” the company said. “Facebook is a platform for all ideas, and we’re committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary about a variety of topics.”

This is obviously an attempt to counter the allegations of political bias in Facebook’s Trending Topics story selection, but the well-intentioned move backfired almost immediately when a fake news story about Fox News host Megyn Kelly trended on the site for hours.

The fake story about the media personality featured the blaring headline “BREAKING: Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out For Backing Hillary.” This is completely false, but the article allegedly spent several hours as the very top Trending Topics story.

While false click bait stories are nothing new on Facebook, the site is usually dedicated to removing them, not offering them the best promotion possible. This was obviously a mistake, but it was a grave one to make mere days after announcing the Trending Topics policy change.