You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Facebook Is Adding a Spam Filter for Clickbait to Its News Feed

Cue the “what happens next will surprise you” jokes: Facebook announced changes to its news feed algorithm Thursday that are supposed to reduce the amount of clickbait headlines served to its users.

The company is specifically targeting headlines that withhold information or mislead users, explained user experience researcher Kristin Hendrix and research scientist Alex Peysakhovich in a blog post.

“We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles,” they wrote. “These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer.”

Facebook’s new algorithm tweaks work a bit like an email spam filter, but for headlines: The company reviewed thousands of headlines to find common phrases used in clickbait and spammy posts. In the coming weeks, Facebook will start to filter stories using these kinds of phrases, and display them less often in its users’ news feeds.

However, Facebook doesn’t just filter out all of those “and his reaction was priceless” stories. The company also proactively identified a number of sites that often rely on these kinds of stories, and is now putting them in the penalty box: “Links posted from or shared from pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed,” the two researchers wrote. “News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook has tried to cut down on clickbait. Two years ago, Facebook began to analyze how many click-throughs an article actually got, and how long people spent reading that article before returning to Facebook, to gauge its quality and impact its ranking in the news feed.

News feed rankings, and algorithm changes like this one, can significantly impact a publisher’s web traffic. The Pew Research Center estimated earlier this year that Facebook is now responsible for more than 80 percent of mobile social traffic for news publishers.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Tinder - Swipe Night

    Tinder's Apocalyptic 'Swipe Night' Interactive Dating Show Sets Release Date

    Tinder next month will bow its first original entertainment content — “Swipe Night,” an interactive adventure series in which viewers are forced to make dating choices on humanity’s last night on Earth. Variety previously reported details of the location-based social network/dating app service’s foray into original content, which recently wrapped production in Mexico City and [...]

  • Editorial Use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    YouTube Rolls Back Verification Changes, Says Verified Creators Can Keep Their Badge

    A day after announcing significant changes to its verification program, YouTube announced Friday afternoon that it won’t be de-verifying existing creators after all. “We heard loud and clear how much the badge means to you,” said YouTube product manager Jonathan McPhie in a blog post. “Channels that already have the verification badge will now keep it [...]

  • BLive: BitTorrent Live Streaming App to

    BitTorrent to Launch Public Beta of New Live Streaming App

    BitTorrent is getting ready to open the floodgates for its new live streaming app, dubbed BitTorrent Live: The company plans to launch a BitTorrent Live Android app on various app stores as part of a public beta test late Friday, according to a spokesperson. BitTorrent Live, which is also known as BLive, is being described [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Facebook

    Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps During Privacy Investigation

    Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps ever since it began investigating potential privacy abuses, the company said Friday. The apps in question had been built by around 400 developers, and a suspension doesn’t necessarily indicate actual privacy violations. Facebook began combing through millions of apps that made use of its platform after the [...]

  • tivo logo

    Tivo Plans to Launch Android TV Dongle, Tivo+ Curation App

    DVR maker Tivo is getting ready to release a new device that may not record television at all: The company plans to launch a $50 Roku-like TV dongle early next year, its new CEO Dave Shull revealed in a conversation with CNN this week. The new device will be powered by Google’s Android TV platform, [...]

  • Still from "Andhadhun"

    Microsoft Streaming Deal Lifts Shares in India’s Eros

    Shares of leading Bollywood film distributor Eros International soared by 38% on Thursday following news of the company’s link up with Microsoft to develop a new generation of video streaming platform. The multinational company said that its Eros Now video operation would work with Microsoft Azure to develop its technology in three ways. They seek [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content