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Facebook nixes click-bait headlines in users' newsfeeds

Likely bringing a collective sigh of relief, the social network announces it's changing its algorithm to ensure click-bait articles aren't so prominently featured.

Facebook, which used this as a prime example of a click-bait headline, says the changes to News Feed will "help people find the posts and links from publishers that are most interesting and relevant." Facebook

What if this article was titled "29 reasons we're thankful for Facebook's News Feed change," or "Facebook switches its News Feed algorithm. You won't believe what happens next," how about "Here's one unbelievable reason Facebook changed its News Feed policy?" Do you think readers would be quicker to click on it? Most likely, yes -- but according to Facebook, that's not really a good thing.

The social network announced Monday that it's cutting down on so-called click-bait stories appearing high in people's newsfeeds. Facebook said the reason for the change is because it wants users to see more relevant information and make sure posts from friends aren't drowned out.

The new changes to News Feed "help people find the posts and links from publishers that are most interesting and relevant, and to continue to weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don't want to see," Facebook research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang wrote in a blog post.

The way Facebook is going about de-prioritizing click-bait articles is two-fold. One, the social network will look at how long people spend reading an article. If users click on the article and then quickly click back to Facebook, that's an indication the article may be click-bait because it didn't fully interest the reader. Two, the company will take into account how many people are liking and commenting on a story vs. the number of clicks it's getting.

"If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn't click through to something that was valuable to them," El-Arini and Tang wrote.

In addition to the announcement about reducing click-bait headlines, Facebook also said that it's prioritizing posts that come with story links rather than just a photo with a caption. The posts with a link tend to offer more information about an article -- such as a headline, photo, and the story's first sentence -- which helps users better decide if they should click.

Last week Facebook announced another possible change to how users would see stories in their newsfeeds. The social network confirmed it began testing a feature that would warn users when certain articles were from parody news sites, like The Onion. Stories by such publications would come with a "satire" tag on the corner of the post to distinguish them from non-joke articles.