Facebook Updates Its News Feed Algorithm To Target Clickbait

Like art, clickbait can be hard to define, but people generally know it when they see it. Facebook also realizes that its users tend to dislike that type of content, so it's tweaked its algorithm once again to cut down on the number of clickbait headlines people see in their News Feeds.

It's not the first time Facebook has made such changes. Two years ago, for instance, it began factoring in how quickly users returned to Facebook after clicking news links; the faster people came back, the logic went, the more likely the headline was to be clickbait for content that really wasn't all that interesting.

This time around, Facebook analyzed tens of thousands of headlines to identify two key clickbait attributes: withholding information and creating misleading expectations for readers. Based on that analysis, the social media giant is now updating its News Feed system to look for common phrases associated with such attributes and filter out headlines using that language.

Aiming at Time-Wasting Headlines

"We've heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles," research scientist Alex Peysakhovich and user experience researcher Kristin Hendrix wrote yesterday in a Facebook news post. "These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer."

Peysakhovich and Hendrix noted that, while the clickbait-targeting changes made in 2014 helped reduce the number of headlines similar to "You'll Never Believe . . ." that Facebook users were seeing, those changes didn't eliminate the problem.

"[W]e're still seeing Pages rely on clickbait headlines, and people are still telling us they would prefer to see clearly written headlines that help them decide how they want to spend their time and not waste time on what they click," they said....

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