If you’re a website relying on clickbait like “Top 10 Celebs Who Are In The Closet, You Won’t Believe Who No. 6 Is” and misleading tripe like “These Games Are So Gruesome, You Won’t Believe How People Reacted” , then your website is going to get hit harder in the nuts than one of those silly dads in an America’s Funniest Home Videos segment where a kid swings a bat at his nether regions as if it were a bug on a wall waiting to get squashed.
The news comes courtesy of an update that was posted up on Facebook, where research scientist, Alex Peysakhovich, and user experience researcher, Kristin Hendrix, addressed the new change in Facebook’s algorithm for burying clickbait in the news feeds after plenty of people complained about the prominence of those misleading stories over actual news stories.
In theory (and hopefully in practice) the new algorithm will be based on the meritocracy of actual news. Clickbait will be ranked lower while real news will be ranked higher. The Facebook post explains…
“Our 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. We’ll continue to update how we identify clickbait as we improve our systems and hear more from people using News Feed.”
Sites like Gawker and Buzzfeed have made an empire out of clickbait. They’ve managed to wrangle up the emotions of people with outrage-inducing headlines or curiosity-baiting titles. Most other larger websites have followed suit in an attempt to stay in front of the pack and play off the inevitable interest of people who can’t resist the bait.
Even Google News jumped in on the clickbait bandwagon, labeling some news as “not news” if it’s purely “informational”.
Facebook isn’t entirely in the clear here. The social media giant was previously brought under fire for squelching news and trends from Conservatives as a way to control what people saw in their feeds. When called out on it Facebook first denied it, but then finally opted to make it known that trends are not wholly organic.
Whether or not the new News Feed algorithm will continue to work as a way for Facebook to alter what news its users are allowed to see, or if it will truly only filter out worthless clickbait, remains to be seen.
The new algorithm will be rolling out soon, so it won’t be long before either people are impressed with the news they see or only force-fed what Facebook wants them to see.