Facebook's goal with News Feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds. When they rank and make improvements to News Feed, they rely on a set of core values. These values — which they’ve been using for years — guide their thinking, and help them keep the central experience of News Feed intact as it evolves.

One of their News Feed values is to have authentic communication on their platform. People have told Facebook they like seeing authentic stories the most. That’s why they work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine, so they can show more of them in News Feed. Facebook also works to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading and spammy to help make sure people see those less.

They’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “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”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

To address this feedback from the Facebook community, they’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.

How will they reduce clickbait headlines

To address clickbait headlines, Facebook previously made an update to News Feed that reduces the distribution of posts that lead people to click and then quickly come back to News Feed. While this update helped, they’re still seeing Pages rely on clickbait headlines, and people are still telling Facebook they would prefer to see clearly written headlines that help them decide how they want to spend their time and not waste time on what they click.

Facebook is focusing more effort on this, and are updating News Feed by using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines. First, they categorized tens of thousands of headlines as clickbait by considering two key points: (1) if the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is; and (2) if the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader. 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). A team at Facebook reviewed thousands of headlines using these criteria, validating each other’s work to identify a large set of clickbait headlines.

From there, they built a system that looks at the set of clickbait headlines to determine what phrases are commonly used in clickbait headlines that are not used in other headlines. This is similar to how many email spam filters work.

Their system identifies posts that are clickbait and which web domains and Pages these posts come from. Links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed. News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change. They’ll continue to update how they identify clickbait as they improve their systems and hear more from people using News Feed.

Will this impact my Page?

Facebook anticipates that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed as a result of this change. However, websites and Pages who rely on clickbait-style headlines should expect their distribution to decrease. Pages should avoid headlines that withhold information required to understand what the content of the article is and headlines that exaggerate the article to create misleading expectations.

As always, Pages should refer to their publishing best practices. Facebook will learn from these changes and will continue to work on reducing clickbait so News Feed is a place for authentic communication.

by our friends at Facebook


Also published on Medium.