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Facebook Will Now Punish Posts That Beg for Likes and Comments

December 18, 2017, 3:21 PM UTC

Companies that beg their followers for some help in boosting their presence on Facebook will need to take a new tack.

Facebook said in a statement on Monday that it will begin clamping down on “engagement bait” across its social network starting this week. When pages ask for their fans to like, share, comment, or perform other actions on their content to boost the reach and get others who are not following them to see their content, Facebook will penalize them, the company said. It’ll do that by “demoting” posts from people that do a page’s bidding, as well as the pages themselves.

“To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts to inform a machine learning model that can detect different types of engagement bait,” Facebook operations integrity specialist Henry Silverman and Facebook engineer Lin Huang said in a statement. “Posts that use this tactic will be shown less in News Feed.”

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Getting more user engagement generally helps Facebook pages, which can be owned by companies, individuals, or other establishments, to boost their notoriety on the social network. That, in turn, could increase the number of people who follow those pages and ultimately help them improve their marketing capacity. But by asking for engagement, pages are effectively creating undesirable content that clogs up News Feeds and makes Facebook less user-friendly. Now Facebook is trying to do something about it.

The move is similar to algorithm changes Google makes to its search results to remove websites and webpages that aim only at getting users to click and don’t actually provide useful content.

Looking ahead, Facebook said that it will use “stricter demotions” on pages that ignore its reprisals and continue to post engagement bait. But the company was also quick to note that fundraising efforts, people asking for travel tips, or circulating a missing child report that seek others’ engagement will not be demoted.