A surprise awaited Facebook users who recently clicked on a link to read a story about Michelle Obama’s encounter with a 10-year-old girl whose father was jobless.
Facebook responded to the click by offering what it called “related articles.” These included one that alleged a Secret Service officer had found the president and his wife having “S*X in Oval Office,” and another that said “Barack has lost all control of Michelle” and was considering divorce.
A Facebook spokeswoman did not try to defend the content, much of which was clearly false, but instead said there was a simple explanation for why such stories are pushed on readers. In a word: algorithms.
The stories, in other words, apparently are selected by Facebook based on mathematical calculations that rely on word association and the popularity of an article. No effort is made to vet or verify the content.
Facebook’s explanation, however, is drawing sharp criticism from experts who said the company should immediately suspend its practice of pushing so-called related articles to unsuspecting users unless it can come up with a system to ensure that they are credible.
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