Your Facebook Newsfeed Was Flooded With Clickbait Garbage. Then This Happened

If you’ve used the Internet for more than a few minutes, you know what clickbait is: headlines written to entice you to click on a link, boosting its traffic and its visibility on Facebook. Now Facebook is fighting back…and you’ll never believe how they’re doing it!

In true clickbait fashion, that first paragraph was misleading. You will, in fact, believe how Facebook is trying to figure out which links are worth their users’ time, and which aren’t, by keeping track of how long a link that you’ve clicked on held your attention. Say you clicked on a post that promised “1 Amazing Trick To Paying Off Your Mortgage In 5 Years Or Less!” but when you clicked through, the only advice was to earn more money and spend less of it. Sure, that’s good advice, but it’s not very interesting. You close the window and go back to Facebook.

That doesn’t matter: the site has what it needed from you. First, it needed your click: the act of clicking on something on Facebook that looks interesting boosts its visibility to other users, giving crappy, clickbaiting posts visibility out of proportion to their quality. Until now, Facebook’s algorithms assume that if a certain percentage of people who see something on their feed click on it, more people will want to click on it too. Where you have to click through to the post to find out what it’s even about, this concept doesn’t work.

Facebook announced today that they’re changing how things work in order to stop rewarding sites that practice the dark art of clickbait. How they’ll do that is simple: Facebook will simply keep track of how long it takes you to return to Facebook after you check out a link. In their blog post about the change, the company explains:

If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Makes sense. Another thing that Facebook will keep track of is whether people comment on, share, or discuss stories with their friends. While this would seem to feed the plague of people commenting on stories after they only read the headline, it also keeps track of how engaged users are with the content they’re reading. “If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them,” Facebook explained in their blog post.

Meanwhile, the Consumerist staff had far too much fun coming up with even more godawful headlines for this post:

  • Facebook’s Latest News Feed Experiment Will Shock You
  • 1 Weird Trick That Facebook Is Going To Do To Your Newsfeed (Your Friends Hate Them!)
  • The 5 Times Facebook Changed Your Newsfeed
  • At 2 Minutes In, Facebook Changed Everything
  • Here’s The Article About Facebook’s Changes To Your Newsfeed That Everyone Is Talking About
  • The Super Bowl Starts At 8:30 ET February 1, 2015

News Feed FYI: Click-baiting [Facebook]

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