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Newsonomics: Newsprint tariffs are a Black Swan event that could speed up the death of U.S. newspapers
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May 17, 2017, 1:07 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: newsroom.fb.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   May 17, 2017

Facebook engineers may be spending a lot of time trying to solve the platform’s fake news problem, but it hasn’t forgotten about the site’s other, equally persistent foe: clickbait.

Facebook said Wednesday that it’s further tweaked its algorithm to display fewer clickbait headlines in users’ News Feeds. The tweak targets headlines that either “withhold information intentionally leave out crucial details or mislead people” or those that “exaggerate the details of a story with sensational language tend to make the story seem like a bigger deal than it really is.” Facebook is evaluating those criteria as individual signals, which it says will let it better detect different kinds of clickbait headlines. It’s also now targeting clickbait on a post-by-post basis, which it says will help it target clickbait on a more granular level.

While clickbait has gotten less attention than fake news lately, both are a natural result of people using various tactics to game Facebook algorithms. Facebook’s interest in solving both problems isn’t entirely altruistic: by reducing the chances that users will duped after clicking a link, Facebook is increasing the chances of keeping those users around.

The latest News Feed tweak improves on a similar tweak from last August. Both changes work in part by creating filters based lists of specific phrases common to clickbait headlines (e.g., “you won’t believe what happens next” and “You’ve GOT to see this!”) Facebook also plans to extend its tests beyond English-language sites.

As with most big News Feed tweaks, this latest one is likely to unnerve publishers concerned about how their traffic might be affected by the effort, particularly if their definitions of “clickbait” diverge from Facebook’s. And change is likely to come quickly for some: Facebook said that sites that rely on clickbait headlines are likely to see lower News Feed distribution, though the effect is reversible. “If a Page stops posting clickbait and sensational headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change,” the company said.

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