Internal Facebook Bug Said to Have Promoted Misleading Content

Content identified as misleading or problematic was accidentally prioritized in users’ Facebook feeds recently, thanks to a software bug that took six months to fix, according to technology site The Verge.

Facebook disputed the reportwhich was published on Thursday and said that it “greatly overestimated what this error was because it ultimately had no meaningful, long-term impact on problematic content”, according to Joe Osborne, spokesman for the parent company Meta.

But the error was serious enough for a group of Facebook employees to prepare an internal report that referred to a “massive ranking error” for content, The Verge reported.

In October, employees noticed that certain content that had been flagged as questionable by external media – members of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program – nevertheless benefited from the algorithm for widespread use in users’ news feeds.

“The root cause could not be found, the engineers saw the increase slow down a few weeks later and then flare up repeatedly until the ranking problem was fixed on March 11,” The Verge reported.

But according to Osborne, the bug affected “only a very small number of views” of content.

This is because “the vast majority of posts in the feed are not eligible to be downgraded in the first place,” Osborne explained, adding that other mechanisms designed to restrict views of “harmful” content remained in place, “including other downgrades, fact -check labels and violate content deletion. “

AFP is currently working on Facebook’s fact checking program in more than 80 countries and 24 languages. According to the program, which started in December 2016, Facebook pays to use fact-checking from about 80 organizations, including the media and specialized fact-checkers, on its platform, WhatsApp and on Instagram.

Content rated “fake” is downgraded in news feeds so that fewer people will see it. If someone tries to share that post, they get an article explaining why it is misleading.

Those who still choose to share the post will receive a message with a link to the article. No posts will be taken down. Fact-checkers are free to choose how and what they want to investigate.


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