Beginning this week, Facebook will crack down on “engagement bait”, i.e., posts that encourage users to like, comment or tag people in the comments section, by demoting those posts from people and pages.
These clickbait posts are everywhere on Facebook – “Like this post if you’re an Aries”, “Love this if you’re a Leo”, “Share with friends to win a free trip” and other such spam-like messages. They appear on news feeds to fish for as many likes, shares and comments as possible.
It is a tactic that publishers use to game Facebook’s news feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to show their content to more people.
Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday that these “engagement bait” encourage interaction to “artificially boost engagement” and gain more reach. The social media platform will update its news feed algorithm to demote them on users’ news feeds.
It is also implementing stricter policies for pages and individuals that “systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach”.
“We will roll out this Page-level demotion over the course of several weeks to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts,” the company said.
“Page Admins should continue to focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories that do not use engagement bait tactics.”
As the new rules commence, pages and individuals that consistently use engagement bait tactics will see the reach on those posts decline as these new rules are put into effect.
According to the company, the crackdown is led by a machine learning model that has been fed by “hundreds of thousands of posts” to detect different kinds of engagement bait.
Facebook also specified that there are some exceptions to this clampdown, and that includes posts that show a missing child report, ask for donations to a cause, or ask for travel tips. These posts won’t be targeted by the new demotion policy.
The social media network considers such interactions as “authentic engagement” and says its machine-learning model is smart enough to skip them while targeting spam posts that may use similar engagement tactics.
Facebook has been tweaking its algorithm to prioritize or de-prioritize certain types of content. It announced last week that it will tweak its algorithm with an intention to show users more video, and previously it has cracked down on other types of spammy posts, like clickbait or links that send users to websites full of ads.
However, the company doesn’t share any metrics around spam content before and after its algorithm changes to show the effect of its measures.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 20
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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