It was a strong temptation to title this article “You’ll never guess what kind of headlines Facebook is cracking down on!” but that would run the risk of getting it caught by the very algorithm that is the subject of the story. According to an article in Facebook’s Newsroom press release feed, Facebook has gotten the message from its users that they want to see fewer articles with clickbait headlines in their news feeds.
You know the kind of article I mean if you’ve spent very much time on social media feeds at all—headlines which leave out some crucial piece of information in order to pique readers’ curiosity and get them to click through and read the article. For example, the one I mentioned rejecting for this one. News outlets, especially the kind of fly-by-night outlets that don’t have any real journalistic appeal, often use such headlines to drive viral social traffic.
If Facebook really is going to crack down and keep such articles from appearing in its users’ news feeds, that could be a pretty serious blow to this kind of (so-called) journalism, as sites that feel the need to entice readers in with deceptive headlines frequently lack any other method (such as quality content) to draw eyeballs. And in the absence of eyeballs, the sites could just shrivel up and blow away. Which wouldn’t be any great loss, if you ask most of the people those articles annoy.
On the other hand, some critics of Facebook see this move as a purely cosmetic fix, given how many other aggravating things Facebook does—and shows no signs of stopping. Also, how many fewer is “fewer”? Plenty of Facebook users would rather see none at all.