Facebook is trying to make its News Feed less spammy

Changes to the site's filtering algorithm will de-emphasize posts that repeatedly ask for 'likes'

Posts on Facebook that repeatedly urge users to like, share or comment on them are being targeted in a new effort to reduce News Feed spam, Facebook said Thursday.

Many of those posts are published by Pages that deliberately try to game Facebook to get wider distribution, the company said. The changes are designed to make more prominent the content people actually want to see, while better detecting and demoting other posts.

Facebook is clamping down on three types of behavior, one of which it calls link baiting, which is when a post explicitly asks users to perform an action on it. As an example, it showed a post with photos of a cute rabbit, a kitten, a dolphin and mosquito, which seems to have little point but urges users to like, share or comment on it.

"These stories lead to a less enjoyable experience of Facebook since they drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about," the company said.

It will also de-emphasize Pages and people who reupload content repeatedly to get more attention. And it's clamping down on posts with deceptive language or formatting that aim to trick people into clicking on "spammy links."

The changes follow some previous adjustments that aimed to surface more relevant news articles while reducing the reach of meme-like photos.

Facebook said most publishers on its site aren't trying to game the system and might even see a small increase in News Feed distribution - presumably because demoting spam will make room for better content. But publishers who are intentionally posting spam will see their distribution decrease in the coming months, it said.

Facebook has to move carefully, though. However well-intentioned the changes might be, the updates to its algorithms can have unexpected consequences for marketers, some of whom are growing frustrated at what they see as the constant changes on the site.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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