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Facebook's clickbait war continues as firm changes algorithms to keep 'spammy' headlines out of News Feeds

Published 05/08/2016

Facebook has repeatedly tried to banish less quality stories from people’s feeds, but it doesn’t seem to be working
Facebook has repeatedly tried to banish less quality stories from people’s feeds, but it doesn’t seem to be working

Facebook is going to kick “clickbait” out of people’s news feed, hoping to ban headlines that force people to click to find out what’s happening.

The biggest media company in the world is upset about the number of publishers who are using “spammy” headlines, and wants instead to promote “interesting and relevant” stories.

It last attempted to purge them in 2014, with an update that it said would check whether people were spending time reading a story and punish publishers that had people click in and then straight back out of their stories.

But that doesn’t seem to have worked, and the site is now adding new features that are set on banishing the headlines from people’s feeds.

Facebook said that it is particularly focusing on headlines that use formats like “and his reaction was priceless” or “and you’ll never guess what happened next”.

Those headlines were responsible for a huge surge in the amount of traffic that many publishers got from Facebook, as sites realised that encouraging people to click would lead to them arriving on their websites. But many users complained that they were being used to trick people into reading stories they didn’t actually want to read – and Facebook has since been working to ban them.

The new update works in the same way that many emails spam filters does: looks out for the kinds of words and sentences that are used for clickbait headlines and punishing them in the feed.

If Facebook’s technology recognises those sorts of headlines, it will stop them from appearing in people’s feeds – likewise, if a site isn’t using them then they’ll be privileged and appear more.

Facebook trained its system by having people read through hundreds of headlines and pick the ones that they felt were clickbait. It is hoped that it will then be able to spot such headlines itself.

Independent

Independent News Service

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