If you’re a heavy Facebook user, you’ve probably been victimised by “clickbait” articles a number of times before. And trust me when I say “I know how it feels”.
Just like you, we’ve also been victimised by clickbait and fake news articles in perhaps the biggest social media platform globally — It’s not fun. And it most certainly isn’t funny.
But Facebook has taken its stance on this matter: Facebook doesn’t like it, and it on it’s way to taking it off completely from its platform.
Before we dive into that, a little media history:
The history of clickbait
“Clickbait” isn’t new. It’s not a millennial idea or a Facebook-born craft. Clickbait has been around since the time of print journalism — only, it wasn’t called clickbait.
Back when it was the prime of newspapers, it was called “sensationalism”.
According to timeline.com:
In the newsprint days, readers needed a reason to pick one paper off the newsstand over another, and above-the-fold headlines were the best place to start. “Yellow journalism” of the late 19th Century routinely used sensational, suggestive, and exaggerated headlines to move papers.
The business of writing content, whether in print or online, is to catch viewer’s attention — make them stop walking and pick up what you wrote (or at least what the think you wrote).
Fast-forward to today’s online platform, physical barriers are no longer in effect and anyone can pick up any news story with a tap of the screen. And in an online platform that has over 2 billion active eyeballs? It’s a goldmine for sensationalised stories worldwide.
The Rise Of Clickbait And Fake News On Facebook
Facebook opened its doors to the public in 2006. Of course, by this time there were already “clickbait” articles on the web, but it went unnoticed and was considered harmless.
As the platform grew, more and more users jumped in and the Facebook community exponentially grew. With a growing community and multiple upgrades and added features, clickbait articles on Facebook also grew exponentially.
With many clickbait articles suddenly dominating Facebook, it became difficult to distinguish authentic news from clickbait news. Hence the rise of “fake news” or news-like stories that are overblown and made to distract or mislead readers.
Things finally blew over in 2018, when news broke out that Facebook was used as a platform that potentially rigged the 2016 US elections.
According to news reports, some 50 million Facebook user data was used to create accurate audience profiles that became potential target audience for Facebook Ads on Trump’s election campaign. According to the business insider:
Facebook said the ads were part of elaborate “information operations” in which “organized actors,” including governments, used social media to deceive the public and distort political sentiment.
Fake news was also used as part of the political campaign:
The social network was widely criticized after the election for its role in the proliferation of so-called fake news, which many believe helped Donald Trump win the election.
Facebook’s fight against clickbait and fake news
Before the news of the US elections broke out, Facebook has begun making major changes in Facebook’s news feed algorithm. According to a post by Mark Zuckerberg:
”recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other… Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
And after the news on the US elections broke out, Facebook has been taking major strides in combating clickbait article and fake news.
Facebook has been constantly purging fake pages in an attempt to prevent the same mishap that happened in the 2016 elections as well as making it hard for clickbait news to appear on facebook news feeds.
Facebook also has plans to also add more “human” review on ad targeting options instead of leaving it to FB crawlers and the systems algorithm which could be exploited and misused. Facebook is taking leaps and strides in removing clickbait and fake news from their platform. But only time would tell if Facebook can fully eradicate these kinds of content from their social media platform.