More fake news trending on Facebook

DENVER -- Facebook is facing criticism after its "trending topics" section recently promoted multiple false stories.

The most noteworthy was a false report that Fox News had fired Megyn Kelly, which was untrue but spread through Facebook like wildfire.

"We're seeing (fake news stories) pop up more and more in social media thanks to a lot of these algorithms that are controlling our social media lives," said University of Colorado Denver social media lecturer Matthew Kaskavitch.

Facebook recently changed the way stories become trending. It took out the human editorial element and replaced it with an algorithm method.

So as false stories gain more attention with shares and likes, it could pop up on trending topics.

"The more people that engage in fake content and these various grandiose headlines that are just completely untrue -- it actually makes it worse," Kaskavitch said. "If you engage, click, share, comment it just fuels the fire even more."

Kaskavitch offered three tips for Facebook users if they are not sure if a story is real or fake.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Or if it sounds too crazy or insane, it probably is.
  • Look to a reputable source. If it seems like big breaking news and you're only seeing it in one place there is probably a reason (it's not true).
  • Do your research. Search for a keyword in the headline and it should uncover many similar stories.

Trending stories can pop up on the mobile app just like any other post on your news feed. On a desktop computer or laptop there is a trending sidebar.

"Machine learning and algorithms are just not there yet for this kind of thing," Kaskavitch said. "I'm not sure if we're going to get there in the near future so Facebook might have no choice but to add the human editorial element again."