Facebook takes action against video clickbait, while testing customised news stories

Facebook has announced two new updates that will attempt to limit the spread of clickbait and improve the integrity of information on the social network, while also testing a more personalised version of its existing news-sharing feature.

The updates take aim at a rash of stories that feature either fake video play buttons embedded on pictures, or videos that only show a static image with no real content. These deceptive tactics are used to try to trick people into clicking through to external links. To combat this trend, Facebook has updated its algorithms to demote these stories in the News Feed.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook, and so do we,” said Baraa Hamodi, an engineer at Facebook in a blog post announcing the update. “When people click on an image in their News Feed featuring a play button, they expect a video to start playing. Spammers often use fake play buttons to trick people into clicking links to low quality websites.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has also confirmed it is testing a feature that will provide customised links to news on topics of interest to individual users. The new offering, called Featured Topic is being tested in the Newsfeed, and will include a link to a news story, alongside an image and a few sentences of text on the subject.

Facebook hopes the feature will help people discover stories that might be relevant to them, but the company has faced difficulty when it comes to promoting news content in the past.

The social network faced heavy criticism in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential elections for allowing inaccurate stories to proliferate on its platform, and for creating a bubble that made it more difficult for users to access stories outside their typical news sources or areas of interest.

Facebook currently promotes news stories in a sidebar off the main Newsfeed. This feature was originally curated by staff, but was replaced by an algorithm-driven method, a move that later sparked controversy following growing awareness of fake news.

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