Facebook battles to banish News Feed clickbait

Tired of misleading headlines? Facebook's new clickbait filter aims to clear them up.

Another day, another change to Facebook’s News Feed.

The social network’s crusade against clickbait, the highly technical term for garbage articles with misleading headlines, continues apace with an algorithmic tweak that downgrades articles with headlines like, “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

That means you’ll see fewer stories like that in your News Feed.

But hasn’t Facebok promised to banish clickbait before? Yes. In a 2014 News Feed update, Facebook used two signals to tell if a link was clickbait: how much time you spent on the story outside of Facebook, and whether you like or share the story.

Its algorithm is getting more sophisticated. The network will now identify clickbait by examining headlines and categorizing them similar to a spam filter. Facebook used actual humans to review headlines and come up with commonly used phrases across classic types of clickbait stories.

Facebook will also look at pages that consistently post those types of stories and will automatically downgrade their ranking in your News Feed. That will affect traffic to those sites, which may inspire them to stop clogging your feed with misleading news.

“We want publishers to post content that people care about, and we think people care about headlines that are much more straightforward,” Facebook product VP Adam Mosseri told the New York Times.

Why this matters: Facebook’s News Feed is a constantly evolving beast. The average Facebook user just wants to see updates from their friends, family, and the celebrities or business they follow. Over the years, publishers have invented new, creative, and often annoying ways to game Facebook’s massive distribution potential, and while Facebook hasn’t said which media companies are guiltier than others of this shameful behavior, you can bet that they’ll change their ways—or just find new, even more irritating ones.

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Caitlin McGarry

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