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Facebook Is Finally Cracking Down on Upworthy-Style Clickbait

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You've spent months seeing your News Feed littered with headlines promising you that you won't believe what happens next, but now Facebook is finally taking steps to cut down on spammy, obnoxious clickbait.


While headlines like the one above—which generally pique your curiosity without actually giving you any real information whatsoever—tend to get a lot of likes, Facebook found that users actually feel quite the opposite, explaining in a recent blog post:

However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.

Over time, stories with "click-bait" headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.


Now, Facebook is going to remedy the problem by looking at how long people actually spend reading the articles they click on, as well as whether or not the number of people sharing a post matches up to its high number of clicks. If a significant number of users are heading straight back to Facebook after clicking through (and without ever sharing the link), that particular story could start to get throttled.

Of course, this isn't the first time Facebook has promised to clean up News Feeds. Its previous target, "like-bait," was tackled just this past April. That crusade, however, focused on posts that explicitly asked users to "like and share." This does appear to be the first time Facebook has explicitly gone after publishers using misleading tactics in exchange for precious clicks.

In other words, if it works, you're about to start seeing a lot fewer stories in your News Feed high on intrigue and low on actual substance. Which means that sites like Upworthy, which have been relying on the tried and true bait-for-clicks formula, are about to be out of luck. And if there's anything that actually can restore our faith in humanity, it's that. [Facebook]

Update 4:31 pm: A spokesperson for Upworthy has provided Gizmodo with the following statement:

We welcome a focus from Facebook on engaged time. Upworthy is driving well over 100 million Attention Minutes per month and 300,000 Attention Minutes per post published to Facebook. Upworthy also has some of the strongest engagement on the Web, with an average of 25,000 Likes, Shares and Comments per post for all content in the first half of 2014. That's 39 times higher than the average social actions per post of the Web's top 25 publishers.