Facebook wages war on Like-baiting and spammy posts

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured

Image of cute kitten from wikimedia commons, Likes from ShutterstockFacebook's tweaked its algorithms to better slap away posts that pester people to Like, Comment on or Share them, the company said on Thursday.

Many of these clingy, whiny, needy stories are published by Pages that deliberately try to game Facebook's News Feed to get more distribution than they normally would, the company said.

Facebook's update is targeting three categories of feed spam:

1. Like-baiting.

Facebook's illustrated this category with a typical post: it shows a quartet of favorite-animal suggestions, including photos of a fuzzy, belly-up bunny ("Like"!), a cutesy-wutesy kitten pawing at the air ("Share!"), some funtastic airborne dolphins ("Comment!"), and a blood-engorged mosquito ("Ignore!").

Users report that like-baiting stories such as this one are 15% less relevant than other stories with a comparable number of likes, comments and shares, Facebook says, and drown out relevant content from friends and Pages that people actually care about.

2. Frequently circulated content.

Resharing great content is one thing. Resharing to the entire Facebook Nation with the latest kitten video is another.

Facebook says that when photos or videos are uploaded over and over, people grow a bit numb, finding the content less relevant, and they have a tendency to gripe about the Pages that go on posting sprees. Hence, Facebook's tweaked its News Feed to de-emphasize these oversharing Pages.

Early testing shows that the change causes people to hide 10% fewer stories from Pages overall, Facebook says.

3. Spammy links.

Facebook points out that some stories in News Feed use inaccurate language or formatting to try to trick people into clicking through to a website that contains only ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads.

Facebook used an example of stories that claim to link to a photo album but instead take the viewer to a website with just ads.

But spam links can be more dangerous than that, as we saw in December when cloned Facebook accounts were hitting up friends with spam and money requests.

Spam links can link to malware that infects victims' computers with all manner of nastiness, but Facebook's recent update trims these links out of News Feed.

This is only the latest in Facebook's ongoing battle against pollution of its news feed. As it is, the integrity of the Facebook Like counter has been in question for years.

For example, in 2012, Facebook popped the bubble on fake Likes, causing the Pages of Lady Gaga, Eminem and Rihanna, among others, to sag.

That was good work. It meant taking on malware, compromised accounts, duped users, and purchased bulk Likes, as well as networks of zombie accounts run by bot masters.

No, Facebook doesn't like it at all when people game its Like counter. Because, well, it would much rather do that itself.

Back in 2012, mere days after the popping of Lady Gaga et al.'s Like bubbles, Facebook turned right around and admitted that it was scanning private Facebook messages to boost "Like" counters on third-party websites.

Who can complain, though, really? If Facebook's de-spamification program gets those whiny/grabby/needy/"Like-Share-Comment-or-you're-pond-scum" posts out of the News Feed, I say kudos to tightening the screws on the algorithms.

A less annoying Facebook is better for everyone.

What would be even better: a less annoying and more secure Facebook.

To that end, here's 5 tips to make your Facebook account safer, and from there you can launch right into 5 more nuggets of Facebook security.

If you want plenty of Facebook news and analysis, like our Facebook page.

We don't promise dolphins or fuzzy wuzzy widdle kittens (apart from this one), but we can at least assure readers that no adorable animals were harmed in the making of this post.

Images from Shutterstock or licensed under Creative Commons.

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12 Responses to Facebook wages war on Like-baiting and spammy posts

  1. " Facebook's tweaked its algorithms to try to scrape off the clingy, whiny, needy stories published by Pages that deliberately try to game Facebook's News Feed to get more distribution than they normally would."

    So, Facebook is going to censor it's pages... because it doesn't like cats...? I thought "Liking" and sharing yours and others content is what FB is supposed to be about? Granted I do not use FB and I'm surely not a cat person, if you don't want to see it can't you block it or ask to be removed from a list or just DON'T LOOK?

    I think this is a test to see just how addicted its users really are, or either they're trying to purge certain users, because anyone who likes and this activity (less the "spammy links") should be upset over this... enough that it should hurt stock prices because I'm pretty sure there are a few cat lovers on FB.

  2. No, I will tell you the real story! i have a page on Facebook and since they have tweeked the newsfeed, it has made it so that unless your followers engage on your page, through---you got it, like, share or comment, only a bare percentage of your followers even see your page..they decide who sees it on how popular it is. I have about 1,119 or so followers for instance on my writing page. Sometimes when I post, less than 50 people are allowed to see it! So, we resorted to letting our base know this and ask them to engage, by sharing, liking or commenting. Now, pages are being banned for this! Blackmail? You betcha!! Reason? They want us to sponsor our posts, that is, BUY ad space in order for our followers to see us. Page owners are fighting back with a protest on June 1. We hope to get enough attention to encourage Facebook to take notice and amend their decision.

    • Branwen · 140 days ago

      Absolutely correct. And they're going after the FUN pages first. FB is one huge hypocrisy. And they've set up their reporting system so that you can't pinpoint why you don't want to see something and 99% of the time they don't get the report correct anyway. It's nothing more than a money grab. They most certainly need to learn some lessons from YouTube, even though they aren't a shining icon in other areas.

  3. goat · 141 days ago

    What about when companies ask you to "Like" their facebook page in exchange for coupons and services? Doesn't that go against what the like button is for if you don't really like them, but are just clicking to be able to take up a special offer?

    • They could care less about that, there are companies that you can pay to write positive reviews and such, but I would suggest the "Like" buttons for a company is about looking good to people looking at them for whatever is that company does... besides, haven't you heard... nothing is free?

  4. Mang · 141 days ago

    Somehow I think it's less about the cats, and more about the annoying posts that everyone just hides anyway...
    I don't *think* FB has a thing against cats. And well... it being on the internet, it would be a bad idea in the long run.
    (What is it with the internet and kittens anyway?)

  5. Frank · 141 days ago

    FB is just annoying, get a hobby, go out, make real friends.

  6. Roger · 140 days ago

    Facebook seems to me to be cavalier about removing shonky pages. There is a page called 'Missing Persons in Australia' (the name is similar to some genuine pages) which is a blatant 'like' farmer, with no genuine lost persons whatsoever, but full of mainly US and a few UK photos stolen from the internet and given Australian 'identities'. These include pictures of celebrities and murdered US children alleged to be missing Australian children whose parents are worried about them. Of course a Google image search identifies the pictures correctly. Many people have been reporting the scam to Google over several months, with no results at all. The same perpetrator has recently begun other bogus pages featured on the main page and with the identical modus operandi. I just wonder whether Facebook makes money out of these disgusting pages; why else would they ignore the screaming obvious?

  7. Boggle · 140 days ago

    I expect those dolphins are airborne rather than air-born ... that would be an unusually athletic form of parturition even for a dolphin ...

  8. The object, in case you didn't read my post above, is not about making friends or about kittens. For making friends, you can do that on your timeline, you don't need a page for that. For those of us that own pages, from the fun ones, like the kittens, to pages like mine, an author page, the bottom line is that they want sponsored pages. They want us all to pay for them on a purported FREE site! Whether or not my fan base sees my posts depends on if they like, comment or share my posts. If a low percentage do not do that, a very low percentage will see my subsequent posts. That is, unless I pay or sponsor that post...then, they will allow a higher percentage to see it. Since this was happening, we, as page owners and administrators of the pages, were asking for reader engagement--to like or share the posts or comment--something to assure that they would be able to get our posts. Now, TPTB are denying that by banning any posts that ask for engagement. That seems quite clear to me. Simple blackmail. There are fake pages out there. That is a fact. They need to be cutting down on THEM, not coming after fun pages or self-published authors, or reviewers, etc. that do not have the big promotion bucks. If they do not want to be a free service, even after stating that "Facebook is free and always will be", then they need to be honest and say this. Allow us to move on to something else. I know it is an unheard of concept, but they need to be honest. It's not about "spammy" pages that no one wants to see. I am an adult and have a mind. I can decide what I want to see and what I don't. This is simply about greed. That's it.

  9. Roger · 140 days ago

    I don't know why I said people have reported 'Missing Persons in Australia' to Google. Of course I meant Facebook. This caper has been going on for months; I first spotted it last November. Unfortunately, there are many gullible, unthinking people about who just blithely 'like' this and a companion page showing what are obviously police photos of Australian banknotes taken after drug busts. I calculated that one of the bogus offers to give cash for likes would have cost $500,000. Behind all this is of course Facebook, which allows such rubbish to continue, despite the many adverse reports made by users.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.