MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, Facebook’s “Trending Topics” algorithm highlighted a false news story promoting a 9/11 conspiracy theory.
According to the Washington Post, a September 11th trending topic linked to an erroneous article that claimed “experts” had footage that “proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers.” This conspiracy theory has been debunked by investigators (.pdf).
After the Post contacted Facebook for comment, the article was removed from the topic page and linked to another story showing beams of light bouncing off One World Trade Center.
This is the second high-profile mistake involving the Trending Topics algorithm in the last two weeks. On August 29th, Trending Topics highlighted a story that falsely claimed Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had been fired. The story was visible to Facebook users for several hours before it was removed.
The social network apologized for the mistake.
Last month, Facebook laid off the human editors that had curated and wrote summaries of trending news for the Trending Topics section in favor of using an algorithm.
Before the layoffs, Trending Topics faced allegations of bias against news and topics of interest to conservatives.