Is Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) beginning to make too many blunders too frequently?
Too many questions are being raised about the direction that Facebook is taking following a recent string of blunders coming in quick succession. Facebook’s decision to remove an image from the Vietnam War showing a young girl running naked away from the bombs generated widespread criticism against the company that it bowed to pressure and restored the post.
However, controversies arising from Facebook’s handling of news stories are many. The company’s Trending feature is in the spotlight after putting a fake story about 9/11 atop the list of trending news topics. Though the company later corrected the problem by removing the hoax story from the trending list, the damage had already been done and the company’s underbelly was exposed.
Blunders with Facebook’s Trending feature have seemed to multiply after the company decided to increase the automation in selecting trending topics on its site by doing away with human editors. The company reportedly laid off some 26 contractors who worked as Trending editors and whose roles included writing story descriptions. The curators also helped to weed out deliberately misleading news stories such as the 9/11 conspiracy theory that found its way to the top of trending topics during the 15th anniversary of the attack on the U.S.
Only two days after Facebook removed human curators from the Trending feature, a fake story about the firing of Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly found its way on the list of trending topics. That development drew a backlash against Facebook, but some thought it was only a small problem that would not reoccur anytime soon.
However, when the 9/11 hoax article made it to the top of the trending list, it became clear that Facebook was having serious problems with its news feature.
Following these Trending glitches, calls for Facebook to bring back human editors to the feature have intensified. Some have claimed that Facebook lost the fight against fake stories the moment it fired human curators from the popular feature.
However, Facebook’s Trending feature has been marred in controversy even with human editors present. In any case, the decision to do away with human curators from the feature arose from widespread claims that those editors were censoring stories to allegedly give political mileage to certain campaigns. Facebook felt it could put the controversy to rest by eliminating human involvement in the trending articles selection, but it seems to have just created more problems.