Facebook clamps down on clickbait stories

Facebook has announced changes to its algorithms in order to marginalise clickbait stories and keep its newsfeed reader centric of its 1.7 billion users.

The social media giant manually classified tens of thousands of headlines with a clickbaitiness score to train the new algorithm.

Now it can detect headlines like “When she looked under her couch and saw THIS… I was SHOCKED!”; “He put garlic in his shoes and what happens next is hard to believe”; or “The dog barked at the deliveryman and his reaction was priceless.”

The social media giant also wants to get rid of headlines that exaggerate the issue. The example it uses is “Apples are actually bad for you?!”

“Our goal with news feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them—ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their news feeds,” said Facebook research scientist Alex Peysakhovich and user experience researcher Kristin Hendrix.

The updated algorithm works in a similar way to how emails would separate spam emails from the emails which matter to the user. Facebook creates a technology which would detect the clickbait stories from tell tale signs, such as clickbait headlines: ‘you’ll never guess what’ and ‘his reaction was priceless.’

The scanning technology was first designed manually by team who reviewed thousands of headlines in order to come up with a list of ‘commonly identifiable clickbait traits.’

The websites from where these clickbait articles were coming from was duly noted down and from this they could detect patterns of traffic coming from those sites over time.

This manual process has now been automated and the result is that clickbait articles are narrowed down and slowly being eliminated from users’ newsfeeds.

This is not the first time in which Facebook attempted to tackle clickbait articles. In 2014 Facebook looked at featuring spam like articles less frequently. This was done by seeing if users had liked then unliked a story which appeared on their newsfeed. Another factor which is considered in the clamp down of clickbait, is the amount of time users spent reading articles after clicking on it.

The new algorithm has stirred up many responses in the media and publication sector. Journalists are enthused about the new changes as it makes way for real reporting to take place.

However, publishers have to be aware of the new reporting guidelines which Facebook will enlist. Reporters and publishers will have to be wary about the way in which they write digital articles, as transparency will have to be significant.

Julie Hansen, president and chief operating officer of Business Insider, said “We don’t do what we consider to be clickbaity headlines… but we’ll certainly consider Facebook’s guidance when we look to post our content onto Facebook and adapt the headlines if needed.”

However, how long it will be before sites work out a way to game Facebook’s algorithms to get through the clickbait filter is anyone’s guess.