For anyone who lived through the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, it was very clear what happened. We all watched as a plane entered the second building. Later, we saw the footage shot by French filmmakers showing the first plane entering the World Trade Center. We have seen the security camera footage from the Pentagon, released years after the tragic events of September 11th. All of this shows what happened. But that has not stopped conspiracy theorists from calling the September 11th attacks an inside job. Now, Facebook has given these people on the fringe credibility.
As I write this report, the second plane was entering the World Trade Center on September 11th, 15 years ago, attacking one of the symbols of the United States. But a Facebook algorithm used to determine trending stories posted a September 11th attacks hoax article two days ago that essentially tells you and me that we did not witness what we witnessed, according to The Washington Post.
According to the Post, Facebook linked to the following about the September 11th attacks: “… [a] tabloid article claiming that ‘experts’ had footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers.'”
“The Daily Star piece promoted by Facebook repeats a lot of common claims from 9/11 ‘trutherism,’ a conspiracy theory based on an idea (unsupported by any actual evidence) that the World Trade Center must have collapsed in 2001 because of a ‘controlled demolition’ and not from the damage caused by the airliner crashes.”
Facebook’s September 11th attacks story is not only factually inaccurate, but on the 15th anniversary of the attacks, it is likely to be seen as extremely disrespectful to the memory of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the Pentagon, and the men and women who fought their killers and put the plane down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
For its part, Facebook is quoted by the Economic Times as saying, “We’re aware a hoax article showed up there and as a temporary step to resolving this we’ve removed the topic.”
By removing the topic, it means many men and women who log on to Facebook today, the day of the September 11th attacks, will not see trending articles about the events that transformed a nation and led us into the longest war in our history.
This was something not lost on the staff at Gizmodo, which noted Facebook’s September 11th attacks topic could have been filled with other, more legitimate stories that would have properly remembered the events of this morning 15 years ago instead of peddling conspiracy theories.
“Still, Facebook’s earlier decision brings up more questions than answers. Why remove a topic wholesale, rather than simply nix the problematic hoax article at the top? The Washington Post noted that Facebook originally replaced the Daily Star piece with another story; that suggests people were talking about other 9/11-related stories besides the Daily Star‘s. Why go one step further and get rid of the topic in its entirety?”
Gizmodo notes that the staff of 15 curators who used to manage Facebook trends were laid off recently, which resulted in the algorithm deciding trending stories and top topics instead of humans who presumably would have caught a Facebook September 11th attacks hoax article.
It should be noted that the children using Facebook today were either infants, toddlers, or not even alive yet when the attacks took place. For teens who may not have studied the attacks in history class or know exactly what happened, Facebook has a duty to present the truth and not conspiracy websites presenting patently false information. All of us alive on the morning of the September 11th attacks saw it happen, whether from a rooftop in Brooklyn, a street in lower Manhattan, or a television screen in Texas. The truth, terror, and sorrow of that day is still as real today as it was 15 years ago.
[Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images]