Facebook to banish clickbait and spam from your News Feed

Posted Aug 4, 2016 by James Walker
Facebook has announced it is updating its News Feed to hide more clickbait stories with deliberately misleading headlines. It said it realises the benefits of authentic communication and is making the change based on extensive user feedback.
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Karen Bleier, AFP/File
Facebook said it has heard from users that want their News Feed to be free of stories with clickbait headlines. It defined clickbait as stories with headlines that intentionally leave out "crucial" information or deliberately mislead people. More often than not, these headlines lead directly to spam content which can sometimes harbour malware and phishing attacks.
Facebook provided a set of fictitious examples including "The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless" and "He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe." In response to the user feedback, headlines like these will soon have a much lower chance of appearing in the News Feed, making it a more informative place to be.
News Feed rankings will be adjusted to reduce the prominence of clickbait. People will see fewer clickbait stories once the update is released, clearing the way for content from friends and family and informative posts from pages to be displayed instead.
Facebook outlined how it identifies headlines as clickbait. It considers two main points to assess whether a story is likely to be spam. If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is, it will be considered to be clickbait.
Similarly, if the headline exaggerates the article to mislead the reader, Facebook will classify it as potential spam. The company has progressed from a team of humans assessing thousands of headlines each day to an automated system capable of detecting clickbait on its own.
It operates in a similar way to email spam filters. When the clickbait filter detects a hit, the web domain and Facebook Page from which it originated are flagged. If the same Page or domain repetitively triggers the clickbait protection system, its content will be gradually moved further down the News Feed.
Facebook warned that websites and Pages who rely on clickbait-style headlines will see less views on their content as a result of the update. It advised legitimate news sites to ensure they avoid headlines that withhold information essential to the article, so they aren't accidentally caught in the clickbait filter.
"One of our News Feed values is to have authentic communication on our platform," said Facebook. "People have told us they like seeing authentic stories the most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine, so we can show more of them in News Feed. We also work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading and spammy to help make sure people see those less."
The update comes shortly after Facebook modified its News Feed to place content from friends and family above articles from Pages. It said its users are most interested in seeing status updates, photos and videos from people they know, rather than objective headlines from news publications.
Pages that rely on clickbait to drive the reach of their content will now find it harder than ever to attract an audience on Facebook. The changes will be welcomed by most users, creating a cleaner News Feed that's more useful and informative. The update will be rolled out over the coming weeks.