Facebook tackles clickbait in News Feed – and what happened next blew my mind

Facebook has revealed its latest drive to improve the user experience through an update to News Feed which detects clickbait headlines and automatically ranks them lower.

Over the last few years, Facebook has been managing a transition from being a platform where users interact with friends and family, to a content library where users can keep up to date with news and current affairs. As with any content platform there is a risk of stories which are purposely misleading, or ‘clickbaity’, which has been seen as a nuisance to users. The latest update to the News Feed aims to remove these stories, and promote content which is more genuine.

“Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds,” said Research Scientist Alex Peysakhovich on the company blog. “When we rank and make improvements to News Feed, we rely on a set of core values. These values — which we’ve been using for years — guide our thinking, and help us keep the central experience of News Feed intact as it evolves.”

The update is relatively simple for the moment, identifying common headlines which historically have been clickbait in the same way a spam filter works, though this could be seen as one of the first steps towards a more accurately customised News Feed. Teaching News Feed to identify headlines could eventually lead to the News Feed understanding the content in the story itself, and prioritizing for users. It is one of the first steps on the journey, though a more advanced artificial intelligence proposition could make more accurate decisions in customizing content on the News Feed for users.

Facebook recently hinted in its quarterly earnings it was on a mission to take on Twitter, becoming more of a conversation platform, as opposed to a social network where users focus on their immediate circle of friends. Improving the user experience and taking away clickbait headlines which are becoming more common, is an important step to realizing this ambition.

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