Skip to content
Naked Security Naked Security

Fake news story hits Trending Topics after Facebook lays off staff

They got 1 hour to hand over phones and computers and to vacate the office. Facebook got 2 days before its algorithms were tricked.

Which of these Facebook trending topics would you be more inclined to click on: the detail-rich headline that promises a “stunning 360 degree view of Mars captured by NASA’s Curiosity rover,” or the generic “#Mars. 4.2K people talking about this”?

Joke question! Enticing you with a human-written story summary doesn’t actually matter, human.

Facebook on Friday announced that it had removed all the “by-hand” topic summaries and replaced them with the almost-pure, nearly human-free joy of algorithms…

…and laid off the 26 copyeditors and news curators that had been running the Trending topics section for about 2 years.

According to Quartz, Facebook gave them 1 hour to hand over their phones and computers and to vacate the New York office.

“#Tokyo2020: Japanese Prime Minister Appears in Surprise Performance During Rio Ceremony,” became just “#Tokyo2020.”

It was OK, for a while. Make that for a very short while. Over the weekend, it all blew up in Facebook’s face.

On Sunday, a fake news story about Fox anchor Megyn Kelly made its way into the Trending section of the social network’s homepage.

According to the Verge, the fake story was titled “”BREAKING: Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out for Backing Hillary.”

Nope. Didn’t happen. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So much for leaving a robot in charge of deciding what piece of internet-borne flotsam to pluck from the flow.

Facebook apparently removed the false news story from its Trending section on Monday morning.

One assumes there are some desks that are receiving their share of head-banging. In its announcement on Friday, Facebook had assured us that there are still humans involved, somewhere, in the process:

There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality – for example, confirming that a topic is tied to a current news event in the real world. The topic #lunch is talked about during lunchtime every day around the world, but will not be a trending topic.

These changes mean that we no longer need to do things like write topic descriptions and short story summaries since we’re relying on an algorithm to pull excerpts directly from news stories. Our team will still strictly follow our guidelines, which have been updated to reflect these changes.

As it is, Facebook is still grappling with accusations, made in May, that the trending topics section was stifling conservative voices.

Gizmodo had reported that former Facebook contractors – known internally as “curators” – said that they’d routinely suppressed conservative news, had been told to artificially inject selected stories into the trending news module even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion or if they weren’t even trending, and that they’d been directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.

Pity whatever humans are still involved in this process: from the looks of it, they’re either not being given the right tools and processes, are overworked/overwhelmed, incompetent, or they don’t actually exist.

On Sunday night, the Atlantic asked Facebook whether a human editor approved the Megyn Kelly topic before it trended, and how it plans to screen fake news in the future.

It hadn’t responded to those queries or to my own by the time we published this piece.

Image of Megyn Kelly courtesy of Debby Wong /


A bit similar to having learned a former company got dinged on a compliance assessment for lacking the security position I’d involuntarily vacated a few months prior. Fine, thanks; and you?

Catharsis for the evicted. Insert Smiley Emoji here. woot.


Before you know it those fake stories like Will Smiths son is a victim of suicide with a virus attached will be shared through trending news. Today’s lie of the day story with virus attached was Kim Kardashian died. Click on one of these and you’ll have to do some work to get rid of it.


handing it all over to broken algorhythms seems to be the way they’re driving the business.
the problems with people’s friends and families first comments (on picture posts especially) being hidden as spam and post owners not being allowed to unhide them from a phone or tablet has been winding users up and driving them off facebook for months now…

That’s all being driven by an algorhythm from what we can tell..

maybe it’s just ‎Mark Zuckerberg, Jim Breyer and the other owners with an accountant or two and an AI device churning out algorhythms for them.


Another fine example of large corporations who actually only run a service/website or whatever for the act of making money, they don’t really care once they have signed you up, what kind of content they are providing you with – they simply want your personal data and browsing habits so that they can get income from advertisements, and if they can get even more profit by getting a computer program to generate content without having to pay a real human being then that’s even better for them. I think its time people stopped what they were doing and realised that nothing in this world is FREE, that if you have a service your not paying for then this is leaving you open to advertising and sharing of the data you provide. Security of your data to some level is looked after as if there was a major breach then it might put them out of business or lose them big money so there is that consolation, but ultimately the service owners don’t care about you as an individual or collectively as a society, they are in it for PROFIT pure and simple. I am not saying we should not use services such as Facebook but we need to enter into these things with our eyes wide open and without rose tinted glasses and take responsibility for our own actions. We can then all make better informed choices of what we share and who we chose to share it by weighing up what the risks are. In a perfect world if this type of scenario played out then people would wake up and see these big corporations for what they are and with no guarantees of complete privacy and security would stop using these services and speak to people face to face or over the phone and in order to demand better privacy and security if these services were really needed would be prepared to pay for them with cash rather than have them be funded by trading access to personal data , however we are not in a perfect world so we need to understand that no one but ourselves has our backs – cold maybe but reality.


Facebook: “You’re either for trump or you’re for hilldog.”
Stories on other candidates are blocked from trending.
Reality: There are 4 groups running for office, but there is money earned by marginalizing Johnson and Stein – earned from the parties that fear truth and integrity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!