Facebook's Standards for Website Linking Are Getting Higher

In a news announcement yesterday, Facebook pledged to stop allowing links or ads for 'low quality' websites on the platform. They characterise low quality sites as anything with little to no substance and a buttload of ads, particularly those which are "disruptive, shocking or malicious". Translation: porn, weird herbal remedies, porn, disgusting graphic medical imagery, porn, aggravating pop ups, and porn.

As you might have guessed already, this is yet another chapter in the ongoing tale of the fake news battle. A lot of fake news is hosted on these hideous sites, as the people running them have no qualms about making money from less than savoury advertising sources. Links to such sites which appear on Facebook will now be buried. To do this, Facebook sifted through hundreds of thousands of pages, identifying all the signifiers for 'low quality' content, and then, you guess it, created an algorithm trained to spot them.

In this case though, it's a more effective approach than it is with video content or even the written word. Sites like this aren't sophisticated, and it's not hard at all to differentiate between them and high quality sites, there's very little grey area. However, there's one particular thing that the AI is looking out for which certainly does constitute a grey area - interstitial pop-ups.

Interstitial pop-ups act as transition points between pages. Sometimes they appear when you first load a site, other times they act as a bridge between links. On heavily flash-driven sites, they're an expected part of the process, but elsewhere they're just irritating. Some news sites, like Forbes, still use them, which could mean that a few more reputable pages do end up getting red flagged by this new security measure.

The main thing to bear in mind though is that Facebook are doing this to coax more trust from their users. If people are confident that anything they click on the platform has been vetted for quality, the recent damage to their reputation may be somewhat alleviated.

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