Robots Love Gossip and Conspiracy Theories Too


First it was the failure of robot vacuums. Then Tesla’s autopilot slammed into a truck in broad daylight. Now boosters of AI have to deal with another fiasco. The Washington Post reports that Facebook’s shiny new algorithm for selecting trending topics is severely broken:

As part of a larger audit of Facebook’s Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate. On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended.

“I’m not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended,” one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. “It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code.”

That’s pretty embarrassing. However, I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation, and at this rate I figure that Facebook’s algorithm won’t catch up with Donald Trump until 2038. Say what you will about Moore’s law and neural nets and all that, but humans are just fundamentally better at bullshit and lies than computers.

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