Clickbait advertising is a form of “bait and switch” advertising designed to lure users into clicking on a link and read, view, or listen to content by providing an attractive but misleading headline.
These false headlines often result in the spread of outrageous or inaccurate information on social media. Clickbait ads benefit fraudsters by generating advertising income each time someone clicks on an article or advertisement. During the 2016 United States Presidential Election, one such company reportedly generated up to $40,000/month using clickbait ads sharing outrageous and false claims about the presidential candidates 1 and another admitted to generating upwards of $2,000/day using the same tactics 2.
How can I identify a clickbait ad?
Clickbait ads are designed to capture your curiosity using extravagant claims. If something sounds outrageous, too good to be true, or is very vague, you may be looking at a clickbait ad. Here are some traits that you can be on the lookout for:
- Headlines that add an element of shock or excitement, like: "You won't believe what..." "What the government doesn't want you to know about..."
- Headlines with shallow gossip on a famous personality.
- Headlines promising that an advertised product is the “LAST” product of its type that you’ll ever need.
- Headlines designed to cause fear, such as “These things will kill you.” "Don't eat these 5 things."
- Headlines that make wild claims about current events.
- Headlines that mention an unknown or new concept.
How can I stop clickbait?
While one person alone can’t eliminate the spread of clickbait, you can take steps to avoid falling for it yourself and help others to avoid the same.
- Use Discernment: If a headline sounds like it’s over the top, the story most likely contains false information or isn’t worth your time.
- Research Claims: If a story is true, multiple major media outlets will have reported the same information.
- Fact Check BEFORE You Share: It’s great to share new information with others, but always make sure that the information is accurate BEFORE sharing with others or presenting it as fact.
- Use Browser Protection, which can help identify fake or fraudulent websites, and won't show you the ads in the first place.