May 10, 2017 / 3:04 PM / in 5 months

Facebook to play down links to websites with deceptive ads

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook (FB.O) is planning to intensify its crackdown on so-called clickbait websites, saying it will begin giving lower prominence to links that lead to pages full of deceptive or annoying advertisements.

The Facebook logo is displayed on their website in an illustration photo taken in Bordeaux, France, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The downgrade of the links was expected to take effect beginning on Wednesday on News Feed, the home page of Facebook where people go to see posts from friends and family.

Facebook said it wanted to downplay links that people post to websites that have a disproportionate volume of ads relative to content, or that have deceptive or sexually suggestive ads along the lines of “5 Tips to be Amazing in Bed” or “1 Crazy Tip to Lose Weight Overnight!”

Links to websites with pop-up ads or full-screen ads also would be downplayed, it said.

People scrolling through their News Feed are often disappointed when they click on such links and do not find valuable information, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, said in an interview.

“People don’t want to see this stuff,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to find it and rank it further down News Feed when possible.”

Facebook uses a computer algorithm to determine which posts people see first from friends and family, and it frequently refines the algorithm to keep up with spam or other concerns.

The company said in August it was adjusting the algorithm to downplay news stories with clickbait-style headlines, a style of headline that intentionally withholds information or misleads people to get them to click on them.

In December, facing criticism that hoaxes and fake news stories spread too easily on Facebook in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, the company made it easier for people to report those kinds of posts.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network with 1.9 billion monthly users, has enormous power with its algorithms to potentially drive traffic to media publishers or stymie it.

The company said it reviewed hundreds of thousands of websites linked to from Facebook to identify those with little substance but lots of disruptive or shocking ads.

Bosworth declined to name any websites Facebook wants to target. He said only publishers of spam needed to worry about seeing less traffic, and other publishers could see their traffic go up.

“This is a small number of the worst of the worst,” he said.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Bill Trott

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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