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Facebook Clamps Down on 'Clickbait'

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You know those spammy headlines in your news feed that sound something like "You'll NEVER guess which two stars fought on the red carpet last night!! Click HERE to see." Facebook wants to get rid of those.

The company says that users prefer to see informative headlines that allow them to decide whether or not they want to read the entire article 80 percent of the time.

In order to reduce the amount of "click-baiting" stories user's see, the social network says it will keep track of how long people spend reading an article that they click on outside of Facebook. If they come back to Facebook right away, it probably wasn't what they were looking for, the logic goes.

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The new protocol, aimed at keeping stories that get a lot of clicks but not much engagement, from rising in the ranks, will also take into account how much discussion the content is generating. A lot of clicks but no likes or comments? Facebook says that's another indicator that the link doesn't lead to something valuable.

"Over time, stories with "click-bait' headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about," Facebook said in a statement announcing the changes.

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The company said it was also modifying the way links are displayed. Links on Facebook are often displayed as a large photo with a headline and brief description, but publishers also share links in status updates or in text above photos.

Facebook says most users prefer the former method, which also makes it easier to click on from a mobile device.

"With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates," Facebook said in a statement. "In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions."

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Facebook says most publishers will probably not see changes in their traffic or other metric based on these changes.

"We're making these changes to ensure that click-bait content does not drown out the things that people really want to see on Facebook," the company said.

Earlier this year Facebook announced a crackdown on another annoying practice: like-baiting. It's been a common practice for a while to ask other users for likes and comments in order to improve a story or Page's ranking, but Facebook says it no longer rewards such behavior.

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