After Facebook's Trending column highlighted a conspiracy theory on Friday that claimed the Twin Towers were brought down by bombs on 9/11, the company has removed its "September 11th Anniversary" topic entirely.
Facebook acknowledged the hoax and indicated it was working to resolve the issue. But the incident is yet another embarrassing moment for Facebook, whose Trending Topics product seems to create headlines as often as it highlights them.
"We're aware a hoax article showed up there, and as a temporary step to resolving this, we've removed the topic," a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in an email.
Until last month, the Trending column — which highlights widely discussed topics and news stories within the platform — was run by a handful of human curators, many of whom had news training. But not long after a controversy in May when critics accused the curators of introducing bias to the column, Facebook dismissed them all, elevated the role of its algorithm in selecting topics and, according to Quartz, placed engineers in charge of correcting its mistakes. Today, those engineers sure had their hands full.
Facebook did not give any concrete explanation detailing how the 9/11 conspiracy story, from the UK-based Daily Star, ended up being the featured article for the "September 11th Anniversary" topic. Asked if engineers made the final call to include it, a Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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