You Won't Believe How Well This Algorithm Spots Clickbait

RedlineVector/Shutterstock.com

With training from humans and machines, an artificial intelligence model can outperform other clickbait detectors, according to new research.

In addition, the new AI-based solution was also able to tell the difference between headlines that machines—or bots—generated and ones people wrote, they says.

In a study, the researchers asked people to write their own clickbait—an interesting, but misleading, news headline designed to attract readers to click on links to other online stories. The researchers also programmed machines to generate artificial clickbait. Then, researchers used the headlines from people and machines as data to train a clickbait-detection algorithm.

The resulting algorithm’s ability to predict clickbait headlines was about 14.5% better than other systems, according to the researchers, who released their findings at the 2019 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis.

Feeding the Algorithm 

Beyond its use in clickbait detection, the team’s approach may help improve machine learning performance in general, says Dongwon Lee, the principal investigator of the project and an associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology and an affiliate of Institute for CyberScience at Penn State.

“This result is quite interesting as we successfully demonstrated that machine-generated clickbait training data can be fed back into the training pipeline to train a wide variety of machine learning models to have improved performance,” says Lee.

“This is the step toward addressing the fundamental bottleneck of supervised machine learning that requires a large amount of high-quality training data.”

According to Thai Le, a doctoral student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, one of the challenges confronting the development of clickbait detection is the lack of labeled data. Just like people need teachers and study guides to help them learn, AI models need data that are labeled to help them learn to make the correct connections and associations.

“One of the things we realized when we started this project is that we don’t have many positive data points,” says Le. “In order to identify clickbait, we need to have humans label that training data. There is a need to increase the amount of positive data points so that, later on, we can train better models.”

Hunting the Clickbait

While finding clickbait on the internet can be easy, its many variations add another layer of difficulty, according to S. Shyam Sundar, professor of media effects and codirector of the Media Effects Research Laboratory.

“There are clickbaits that are lists, or listicles; there are clickbaits that are phrased as questions; there are ones that start with who-what-where-when; and all kinds of other variations of clickbait that we have identified in our research over the years,” says Sundar. “So, finding sufficient samples of all these types of clickbait is a challenge. Even though we all moan about the number of clickbaits around, when you get around to obtaining them and labeling them, there aren’t many of those datasets.”

According to the researchers, the study reveals differences in how people and machines approached the creation of headlines. Compared to the machine-generated clickbait, headlines generated by people tended to have more determiners—words such as “which” and “that”—in their headlines.

Training also seemed to prompt differences in clickbait creation. For example, trained writers, such as journalists, tended to use longer words and more pronouns than other participants. Journalists also were likely to use numbers to start their headlines.

The researchers plan to use these findings to guide their investigations into a more robust fake-news detection system, among other applications, according to Sundar.

“For us, clickbait is just one of many elements that make up fake news, but this research is a useful preparatory step to make sure we have a good clickbait detection system set up,” says Sundar.

To find human clickbait writers for the study, the researchers recruited journalism students and workers from Amazon Turk, an online crowdsource site. They recruited 125 students and 85 workers from the site. The participants first read a definition of clickbait and then researchers asked them to read a short—about 500 words—article. They then asked participants to write a clickbait headline for each article.

A machine learning model called a Variational Autoencoders—or VAE—generative model, which relies on probabilities to find patterns in data, created the machine-generated clickbait headlines.

The researchers tested their algorithm against top-performing systems from Clickbait Challenge 2017, an online clickbait detection competition.

Additional researchers from Penn State and Arizona State University contributed to the work. The National Science Foundation, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and the Office of Naval Research supported this work.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.