Facebook to further penalize sites that use clickbait headlines

Bradley Wint
Aug 7, 2016 2:58pm AST
Photo: TryModern

Site like Upworthy and Viral Nova have changed the Internet, encouraging quite a number of bloggers out there to use sensationalist titles to garner more clicks to their stores.

While that initial shock value caught a number of social media users by storm, people quickly became bored and tired of the phenomenon and ignored them.

Sadly many sites like Buzzfeed, IFLScience, Gizmodo, and others still employ some form of bait to bring way more attention to stories that really don’t deserve 5 seconds of our time.

Back in 2014, Facebook acknowledged that this was a problem and offered users the ability to report stories that they felt were misleading and sensational. Now, they’re adding yet another update to further crack down on stories that slip under the radar.

We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

To address this feedback from our community, we’re making an update to News Feed ranking to further reduce clickbait headlines in the coming weeks. With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.

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Using a specially designed algorithm, Facebook will identify clickbait stories based on certain words or phrases that result in headlines withholding or exaggerating the true contents of a story. They gave the following example.

For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?) The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day)

The team tested this algorithm on thousands of headlines to see whether it would do a good enough job of filtering out the sense from nonsense.

As a result, sites consistently being flagged by the script for posting clickbait titles will see reduced visibility in users’ news feeds. The algorithm will also determine whether the Facebook Page and/or website domain should suffer a penalty, as some pages may post clickbait content from a variety of sites versus from just one domain.

This new update could be a major blow for many Page owners as organic visibility is at an all time low. Many publishers (like Gizmodo for instance) have resorted to posting insanely clickbaity descriptions and titles to get around that organic visibility issue.

I guess that’s yet another strategy out the window. The Facebook effect has been felt, as Upworthy for instance has significantly toned down their headlines as of late, giving us the story’s face value via their titles (as least most of the times they do).

At the end of the day, users like myself should benefit from the exercise as the algorithm should help filter out high quality stories from the run-of -the-mill crap.

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