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Facebook changed its algorithm - and accidentally fueled the violent riots in France

Is social media to blame for political violence?

(THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a report from Buzzfeed News, the violent riots in Paris were fueled by a change in the algorithm on Facebook that decides what news goes viral and what flounders.

The report traced the change in algorithm as protest groups in France gained popularity and prominence on the social media behemoth in the months before the riots.

One such page was a petition against the proposed gas tax created by Priscillia Ludosky, a 32-year-old aromatherapy entrepreneur. Originally, it got very little traction with just a few hundred signatures.

But it began to pick up after Ludosky appeared on a radio show — after that, a local newspaper picked up the story, and the petition took a life on its own on Facebook, where it went from a few signatures to over a million.

The report ties the explosion of social media activity to an algorithm change on Facebook announced by Mark Zuckerberg to "prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local."

Rather than do what it intended, which was to combat misinformation and political polarization, the focus on local news just created opportunities for more sensationalism.

The report shows various groups, including the infamous Yellow Jackets, spreading fake news that was amplified by "Anger Groups" on Facebook where social media users were radicalized by the false stories spread through the algorithm.

The anger exploded on Nov. 17 when, according to the report, 300,000 Yellow Jackets took the streets to make their protest a reality.

On the first day, 585 people were injured, another 115 police officers were hurt, and one person was killed in the ensuing chaos.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the violence, but consented to the demand from protesters to suspend gas taxes for six months.

Here's a Fox News report on the riots in France:

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