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Former Facebook news curators say the story selection algorithm failed to improve over time and wasn’t ready to be released


You might have heard: Trying to get rid of human bias in its trending topics, Facebook announced it would no longer longer employ humans to write descriptions for the section, but just three days after that announcement, the trending news section include a fake news story claiming Megyn Kelly had been fired from Fox News

But did you know: While Facebook’s move to automate its trending news feature seemed to be an effort to end controversy around allegations of liberal bias in the section, former members of the trending news team tell Slate that they understood that Facebook’s end goal was always to automate the story selection process. But those news curators also say that the software Facebook is using isn’t ready to be rolled out: The algorithm was supposed to improve over time, but a contractor who worked on the algorithm for over a year said, “I didn’t notice a change at all.”

+ Another former news curator predicted to Digiday that the trending news feature could go away entirely: “I think they are just going to get rid of the product altogether, because there is going to be backlash when people who do use the tool realize that the quality has gone down — unless there are severe algorithmic changes that improve the quality of the topics” (Digiday)

+ In the wake of the trending news section including a fake news story, Poynter’s Kelly McBride calls for Facebook to add a public editor to explain the company’s controversies from its point of view (Poynter); “False content often gives off great signals on Facebook,” Craig Silverman writes, and the elements of false or misleading content are often what makes it successful on Facebook (BuzzFeed News)

+ While in Italy on Monday, Mark Zuckerberg reiterates that he doesn’t see Facebook as a media company: “We are a tech company, not a media company,” Zuckerberg said in response to a question about whether Facebook would become a news editor (Reuters); Peter Kafka argues that’s not true, however: “When you gather people’s attention, and sell that attention to advertisers, guess what? You’re a media company” (Recode); In an academic paper published earlier this spring, Philip Napoli and Robyn Caplan explain why it matters when companies such as Facebook deny that they’re media companies (Social Science Research Network)

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