Facebook's Next Move: Demoting Clickbait Headlines

mark zuckerberg - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

mark zuckerberg - Getty - H 2016

The war on soliticious headers continues.

Facebook's all-important algorithm is changing once again, and publishers beware. 

The social network is getting more surgical about how it weeds out clickbait, a term that can refer to articles that promise news that doesn't deliver on an often sensational headline. 

Facebook on Thursday officially unveiled an update to their algorithm based on language recognition and where on the internet the headlines were originating, similar to an email spam filter.

"[We] are updating News Feed by using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines," the company said in a statement. "First, we 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."

In 2014, Facebook began its offensive against clickbait by looking at the time it took for users to return to their news feeds after navigating away. If it was only a second or two, the link was probably bait, which meant a downgrade by Facebook in its ranking system.

Despite the sophisticated change, Facebook doesn't expect the update to have much of an effect on the majority of users. What it entails for publishers, however, is yet to be seen. 

"We anticipate 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," the statement added.