Clickbait fosters misleading online environment

Clickbait, as the name suggests, attracts readers into clicking their way into many different websites for the sole purpose of driving revenue or attention with the use of boisterous headlines and photos.

Popular social media websites such as YouTube and Twitter house much of the clickbait that exists, but even news reporting today presents its readers with exaggerated headlines. Many different websites use this technique.

“It has a horrible effect on journalism,” social studies teacher Dr. Chris Edwards said. “In Russia, there were stories of Ukrainians killing and eating Russians and all kinds of other crazy things. ‘Cannibalism in Ukraine’ makes you click, whether there is any truth to it or not. It ends up spreading and having a real world affect.”

Stories like these raise questions about whether clickbait is ethically “right,” or even if it should be censored. It damages the credibility of the source and pushes readers away when they have felt tricked into clicking into something else.

“You could make the case that if it were harmful to certain populations or minors that it could be censored,” said Edwards. “If it is present in platforms where minors can access it, then yeah I think there could be an argument to censor it.”

Not all forms of clickbait are used to grow an audience, but are instead used to make money. YouTube houses many content creators that use clickbait thumbnails and titles to reach more people that drives clicks and therefore more ad revenue.

“Clickbait probably cannot be stopped because a lot of it is ads,” social studies teacher Jenna Pritchard said. “The internet has to make money somehow, and that is just one way for them to do it.”

Dr. Edwards believes that the use of clickbait the way it is today is an abuse of the freedom of the press, the right to publish content without government interference within certain guidelines.

“I think clickbait does abuse the freedom of the press,” Edwards said. “You could make an argument with it. When you post something outlandish, someone else who posts to counter won’t get the same support as the outlandish post.”