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Media critic

How much Internet sophistication is required to determine that the headline above on endingthefed.com (ETF News) —  is a fraud?

First off, how many bona fide news organizations have taken to calling Megyn Kelly, the famous Fox News anchor, a “traitor”? Second off, where’s the evidence that she’s backing Hillary Clinton? Third off, how many bona fide news orgs use the term “to kick out” in this context?

Those considerations, plus the flimsiness in the material below the headline, didn’t keep Facebook from promoting the story today in its “Trending Topics” section. That’s a special section: Facebook is a powerful driver of web audience, and this particular section came under fire earlier this year via a Gizmodo article alleging that the company’s “news curators” kept conservative-tilting stories out of “Trending Topics.” Just last week, the company announced that its people would no longer write descriptions of stories in the section, the better to reduce human bias in those snippets. An algorithm, the company announced, would sift through text in pursuit of a description.

Humans at Facebook, however, are still responsible for identifying Megyn Kelly-related garbage. Far from “kicking out” Kelly, Fox News is searching for ways to keep her on board. And the ETF News story relies heavily on a piece at Conservative101 that includes this observation: “Bill O’Reilly will not stand for Megyn’s lack of solidarity with the Republican party’s nominee, and is the driving force behind ousting her.” In recent years, Kelly has emerged as the face of Fox News; just scroll back to its Republican primary debates.

The Conservative101 story, moreover, concludes with a line that sort of contradicts the notion that Kelly has been “kicked out”: “What do you think about Megyn Kelly and her future at Fox News?”

A Facebook rep issued this explanation for the screw-up:

The review team accepted this topic over the weekend. Based on their review guidelines, the topic met the conditions for acceptance at the time because there were a sufficient number of relative articles and posts. On re-review, the topic was marked this morning to be revisited (and therefore no longer shown live) based on the likely inaccuracy of the articles on which the topic was based. This revealed a gap in our review process around fake news/satirical sources that we’re working to address now.

We’ve asked Facebook for further comment on this matter, because we don’t fully get the statement.

UPDATE: Facebook has issued an on-the-record statement about this screwup: