Kalina Bontcheva leads the EU-funded PHEME project working to compute the veracity of social media content. She said reducing the amount of human oversight for Trending heightens the likelihood of failures, and of the algorithm being fooled by people trying to game it. “I think people are always going to try and outsmart these algorithms — we’ve seen this with search engine optimization,” she said. “I’m sure that once in a while there is going to be a very high-profile failure.” Less human oversight means more reliance on the algorithm, which creates a new set of concerns, according to Kate Starbird, an assistant professor at the University of Washington who has been using machine learning and other technology to evaluate the accuracy of rumors and information during events such as the Boston bombings. “[Facebook is] making an assumption that we’re more comfortable with a machine being biased than with a human being biased, because people don’t understand machines as well,” she said.
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