Skip to Content

Sites are trying to crack down on awful content, but fakes just keep rising to the top.

The news: On Wednesday YouTube briefly put an inaccurate conspiracy video, claiming that a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting was an actor, in the top spot of its Trending section. Similar content appeared in Facebook’s Trending Topics section.

The problem: Trending sections are algorithmically generated. (Facebook’s was edited by people, until Gizmodo revealed it suppressed right-wing news.) Big Tech says it’s clamping down on misinformation, but the software seems to have no eye for veracity.

Why Trending sections exist: Money, mainly. As Wired notes, “trending” content is usually compelling and clickable, and it keeps people feeling included. That means it attracts eyeballs for long periods and earns social networks a ton of cash.

Kill it? Trending is broken. Until algorithms that weed out offensive content ensure that junk is kept off the charts, it may be safest for tech firms to kill the idea. They won’t—but they probably should.

Deep Dive

Tech policy

The US Navy wants swarms of thousands of small drones

Budget documents reveal plans for the Super Swarm project, a way to overwhelm defenses with vast numbers of drones attacking simultaneously.

A wrongfully terminated Chinese-American scientist was just awarded nearly $2 million in damages

"The settlement makes clear that when the government discriminates, it’s going to be held accountable," said Sherry Chen's lawyer.

Inside effective altruism, where the far future counts a lot more than the present

The giving philosophy, which has adopted a focus on the long term, is a conservative project, consolidating decision-making among a small set of technocrats.

The Chinese surveillance state proves that the idea of privacy is more “malleable” than you’d expect

The authors of "Surveillance State" discuss what the West misunderstands about Chinese state control and whether the invasive trajectory of surveillance tech can still be reversed.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.