Facebook is taking aim at clickbait

Facebook is taking aim at clickbait
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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Facebook is dealing yet another blow to media outlets.

The company is tweaking its newsfeed algorithm to lower the frequency of “clickbait” stories in the coming weeks. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 1.71 billion users, defines clickbait as articles with headlines that “intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people.”

Facebook says it spent months identifying phrases that are common in clickbait headlines but not other headlines, a process that’s similar to how spam filters work. The company offered the following examples as clickbait:

“When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”

“He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”

“The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless”

While clickbait is universally hated by readers, the latest update is emblematic of the changing relationship between Facebook and media outlets. Facebook spent years cozying up to publishers, encouraging them to embrace new features, such as instant articles (stories published directly onto the social network), and live video.

But its recent algorithm changes are putting media organizations, especially those that have grown dependent on the social network for traffic and ultimately ad revenue, in a tough spot. For example, at the end of June, Facebook, which drives more than 40% of referral traffic to news sites, said its newsfeed would prioritize posts from friends and family over articles posted by news organizations. The move would result in a “noticeable” drop in traffic for publishers, according to the company.

Facebook, for its part, recognizes media organization’s anxiety over changes to the newsfeed. As a result, the company said it’s making algorithm updates more transparent and regularly meeting with publishers to discuss the modifications.