Facebook Says It’s Cracking Down On Clickbait

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If you’re tired of headlines declaring that “you’ll never believe what happened next!”, it looks like Facebook feels your pain.

The company said in a blog post today that it’s trying to cut back on “click-baiting headlines”, which it defines as “a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.”

Handwringing about clickbait is nothing new (my favorite variation on that handwringing is The Onion’s recently launched ClickHole website), but Facebook’s worry is that these headlines could “drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.”

But how do you distinguish between deceptive, clickbait headlines and those that are just, y’know, effective? Facebook team members won’t be making the call themselves, but rather relying on user behavior to suggest whether they got any value out of the story. So the company says it will be looking at things like the time spent reading an article (before returning to Facebook), and at the ratio of people clicking on a link versus discussing and sharing it.

So I doubt you’ll see a sudden transformation of your News Feed, with nothing except highbrow discussions of foreign policy. But if everyone’s clicking on a link, immediately thinking, “What the hell is this?” and clicking back to Facebook, the link will probably be penalized in the News Feed.

A few months ago, Facebook announced other steps it was taking to cut back on News Feed spam. These efforts are going to be increasingly important as there’s ever-more competition for News Feed real estate and user attention.

Less excitingly, today’s blog post also said that Facebook will be favoring posts where the link to a story is shared in the text, rather than in a photo caption.

[image via Flickr/SamahR]