Facebook bug promoted misinformation on users’ News Feed

Facebook engineers identified a massive ranking failure that amplified misinformation on News Feed instead of combating it, an internal report obtained by The Verge said. It took six months to fix the software bug.

Joe Osborne, a spokesperson for Meta, confirmed the incident in a statement to The Verge and said the company “detected inconsistencies in downranking on five separate occasions, which correlated with small, temporary increases to internal metrics.” Osborne added that the bug did not create any long-term impact on metrics.

“We traced the root cause to a software bug and applied needed fixes,” Osborne added. The internal document said that the technical issue first surfaced in 2019 and created a noticeable impact in October 2021, when there was a sudden surge of misinformation.

Surge in News Feed

Instead of suppressing posts from repeated misinformation offenders – reviewed by the company’s third-party fact-checkers – the views of the posts on News Feed spiked as much as 30 per cent globally, The Verge reported. The engineers, unable to find the root cause, witnessed the surge subside in a few weeks and then unfold until the ranking issue was fixed on March 11.

“During the bug period, Facebook’s systems failed to properly demote nudity, violence, and even Russian state media the social network recently pledged to stop recommending in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine,” The Verge reported.

Published on

April 01, 2022

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