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Are clickbait’s days finally numbered?

Facebook is finally to action to deal with its clickbait problem.

From now on, thanks to an algorithm that identifies key words and sentences, users or pages that share clickbait content will see their visibility reduced, and thus their traffic, with the eventual result that they will disappear from our timelines. Those committing only occasional infractions will probably not even notice it. Facebook says pages that change their strategy and stop spamming will see their visibility gradually increase.

Clickbait is the cause of more complaints on Facebook than anything else. In 2014, the company changed its algorithm in line with this, hoping to discover what was and what wasn’t clickbait based on the numbers of people who after clicking on the link, immediately abandon it. Facebook was able to identify clickbait headlines, albeit slowly, and didn’t take measures to punish spammers.

Its new algorithm uses machine learning techniques that can detect outrageous exaggerations and whether headlines are missing key information, as well as taking in to account a page’s history. The company is also to provide a style guide for media about how to avoid clickbait in headlines.

But much remains to be done: algorithms are not perfect, and exorcising clickbait once and for all will mean educating users so they can distinguish between sensationalist material and quality information. Clickbait will disappear when users finally understand its negative impact.

Facebook’s recommendation algorithms are one of the most delicate questions on the social network. The company recently took the decision to reduce the priority given to media in its feed due to protests from users who said they wanted to see the updates of friends and family before reading the news.

But there are also users who say they use Facebook to find out what is going on in the world rather than keeping up with friends and family. As the man said: you can’t please all of the people all of the time…

Facebook isn’t the only company taking action against clickbait. A lot of SEO experts say that Google is increasingly trying to prioritize its pages on the basis of the veracity of their content, rather than purely on the number of links, meaning that sensationalist, factoids or pages filled with intrusive ads will be punished. Again, this is a delicate matter, but it now seems as though, finally, the wheat will begin to be separated from the chaff.

Friends do not share junk headlines, nor do they waste their time recommending pages filled with garbage. What’s more, there are now very good reasons for not doing so.


(En español, aquí)