However you feel about videos that play automatically, clicking on what appears to be a video only to find out that it’s a hyperlinked image that opens a site you didn’t want to visit is worse. So is trying to watch a video that’s not actually a video but just a single static image. Facebook thinks so, too, and is taking steps to reduce the visibility of both types of fake videos on its social network.
Facebook’s news feed algorithm will start penalizing photo posts that mimic video thumbnails — play button and all — as well as video posts that solely feature a static image, the company announced on Thursday.
“During the coming weeks we will begin demoting stories that feature fake video play buttons and static images disguised as videos in News Feed,” said Facebook engineers Baraa Hamodi, Zahir Bokhari and Yun Zhang in a blog post.
When Facebook’s computers recognize that a photo contains a fake play button or that a video lacks motion, it will lower the ranking of that post in people’s news feed, but it will not remove the post or penalize the Pages that publish it or the sites they link to, according to a Facebook spokesperson. The update will not impact ads, though Facebook’s advertising policy does prohibit brands from uploading ads with fake play buttons and static-image videos, the spokesperson said.
The fake videos that Facebook is targeting have become popular among publishers as a hacky way to game Facebook for video views and website visits. Meme photos published as videos can fetch millions of views on Facebook. And no less than ESPN has used the click-to-play photo tactic to get people to click over to watch a video on ESPN’s own site. Earlier this year, Facebook updated its Live API policy to prohibit companies from broadcasting videos that were, in fact, streams of static images.