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Say goodbye to video clickbait on Facebook

Facebook says it’s putting a pause on annoying videos that are really just pictures with a play button.

An example of a link with a fake play button to get people to click.

Those poorly produced "videos" on your Facebook news feed are getting cut off.

On Thursday, Facebook announced two updates that will put an end to fake video clickbait. In the next few weeks, trick images and videos are going to be buried in your news feed, as Facebook's algorithm moves to demote them.  

For a while, Facebook's algorithm had been pushing videos to the top of news feeds, in an effort to expand its platform. Thirsty spammers took notice and flooded pages with hordes of low-quality videos. The majority of them were really just still images with a song in the background, sometimes it was silent audio.

Basically, they disguised the same pictures and memes you'd seen before as videos, prompting Facebook's algorithm to promote them on your news feed. The videos were able to rake in the extra views and ad money. 

Another trick was to add a fake "play" button to the images, which people would click, sending them to another website.

"Spammers often use fake play buttons to trick people into click links to low quality websites," Facebook engineers Baraa Hamodi, Zahir Bokhari and Yun Zhang said in a blog post. "These deceptive spammers also use static images disguised as videos to trick eople into clicking on a low quality experience."

A Facebook spokesman said those clickbait videos and pictures won't be removed, but they will be severely pushed down in priority on news feeds.

It will be using machine learning to automatically track play buttons on any images, the company said. 

To hunt down videos that are really just images in disguise, Facebook is using a process it calls "motion scoring," that tracks movement in video. If the video doesn't have that much movement, it could be flagged as spam. 

"While the prevalence is statistically low, the frustration expressed by people who use Facebook who encounter these deceptive practices is high," a spokesman said.

Facebook expects the shift to cut off a massive amount of traffic heading to these phony pages. 

First published at 10:01 a.m. PT.
Update, 10:07 a.m. PT: Adds comments from Facebook spokesman.

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