Facebook Targets Clickbait with News Feed Update

John Lister's picture

Facebook is making yet another change to the way it shows content on a user's home page. The tweaks are designed to better reflect what people actually think of the content.

The changes will affect the News Feed, which displays user posts in an order based on an 'importance', determined by Facebook's algorithm. Prior to the News Feed, posts were shown in chronological order. Facebook concluded that viewing posts in chronological order was simply unworkable, due to the sheer volume of content posted in a day. In some cases, users could potentially see 1,500 posts a day. (Source: techcrunch.com)

It is possible to switch News Feed from the default setting of "Top stories" to the old-style "Most Recent," but most accounts will switch back to "Top stories" after approximately one a week. The only way to overcome this is through third party add-ons such as FB Purity.

Likes And Comments Used To Be Key

Until now, "Top stories" have been ranked mainly by user actions. In other words, the more people who clicked "Like" on a post, added a comment, or shared it with others, the more likely it is to show up prominently on your news feed. This was particularly the case with actions by people with whom you are friends on Facebook.

The site has been researching this ranking algorithm in two ways. Firstly, it has thrown up random sample questions on the site asking users what they think of a particular post. Secondly, it's paid around a thousand people to take part in a feed quality panel in which they agree to rank every post as it appears.

Clickbait May Suffer Under New Policy

Based on this research, Facebook has concluded that user actions aren't necessarily the main indicator of whether they like a post. For example, some posts are important to users but don't necessarily lend themselves to a "Like" or comment; one example is people sharing news of a bereavement. Other posts may prompt a lot of user action, but not be of much interest to many people; examples include heated political debates.

The tweak means Facebook will now rank posts based not just on user action, but how the content matches up with the type of posts people have previously rated as relevant or irrelevant. As a result, the site has warned content creators that material posted in a way intentionally calculated to get higher in the rankings may no longer perform well. This includes something called clickbait: news articles posted on Facebook with an intriguing and provocative but often misleading headline designed to get people to share or follow the link. (Source: fb.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Are you happy with the order in which posts appear in Facebook? Would you prefer more control (in an easier fashion) over which posts you do and don't see? Would you rather see all posts in chronological order, even if that might be overwhelming?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I don't use Facebook (hardly at all), but any time I see a website full of clickbait ads or "posts," I usually exit the page immediately. Websites with clickbait are simply looking to cash in on clicks by duping people that visit the site. That seems like a very poor business model if you ask me - I sure wouldn't want to visit a website again if the content is deceitful. Anything that can be done to weed out clickbait is a good idea, and I hope Facebook has algorithmically hit the nail on the head.

petershaw's picture

The real problem with clickbait comes from the people using Facebook. I have some friends whose entire lives appears to revolve around looking for those "philosophical" messages and then sharing them. The more apparently profound the message the more these people share them despite the majority of them being statements that are either blindingly obvious or stupid or just plain wrong. They don't appreciate that they are clickbait and to my mind these people are as naive as those that respond to Nigerian cash promise emails.

So the problem is not really Facebook but it's users and any effort by Facebook to minimise the problem is welcome. I have uncluttered my News Feed by simply un-following the main culprits on News Feed and following them on a Custom List. In fact I have 2 custom lists for this. One is called "Excessive Crappers" and the other "Dickheads".