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Facebook (again!) updates its News Feed algorithm to reduce Clickbait posts

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If like me, you have been a long time Facebook user, you have probably seen the website go through a lot of changes. The layout, the content and even the advertisements have all changed drastically. Most if these changes are for the good but some, not so much.

In recent times, we have had a spate of misleading links and posts called Clickbait. They go from “Use this to lose 10 pounds in a week” to “Earn this much every day, you won’t believe how” and basically other irrelevant stuff that aims to get as many clicks as possible. Well, Facebook has come up with a brand new algorithm that will chomp down on these annoying headlines and posts.

These posts, that have some completely weird/fantastic/ridiculous statement as their headline, are known as clickbait, because they bait people into clicking a link that usually has very little at the other end. Understandably, people don’t want to see many of these cluttering up their news feeds and as such, Facebook’s new algorithm has a lot of work to do.

According to a blog post on the topic,

We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles.

To address this feedback from our community, we’re making an update to News Feed ranking to further reduce clickbait headlines in the coming weeks. With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.

This is not the first time that Facebook is acting on user feedback to reduce clickbait ads though. The company earlier deployed a tactic in which it recorded the time people spent away from the news feed after clicking on a link or headline or title. If they came back to the news feed very quickly, it was taken to mean that the link they clicked upon had little information or relevance.

However, the problem is still there. Clickbait ads are still cluttering up the news feed. And that’s why Facebook is bringing in an algorithm that has been trained by feeding it tens of thousands of Clikbait titles and that will recognize these headlines. A team at Facebook actually sat down and created a huge database of these headlines by reviewing a lot of posts. All this data was later fed to the algorithm so that it compares words between a title and a database  — similar to how email spam filters work.

For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?) The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day)

So now when a publisher deploys clickbait with his post, the algorithm will recognize it and rank it way lower in the news feed. And publishers who are consistently known to be posting clickbaits should expect their distribution to decrease. However, the decision is not irrevocable and improving your practices will lead everything back to normal again. As per Faceook,

News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change. We’ll continue to update how we identify clickbait as we improve our systems and hear more from people using News Feed.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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