Clickbait is the use of dramatic or suggestive headlines and imagery to attract attention to content in order to gain ad revenue or views. Clickbait can be ads, thumbnails on videos, pop ups, article headlines, or many other forms of media. Usually, the truth behind the sensational headlines or images is cast aside in favor of making more dramatic content. In these articles, the writer often comes to whopping conclusions with vague proof or details. As many online journalists’ wages rely on page views, it is not uncommon that a writer will spice up content in order to grab a reader’s attention. This tactic is often seen on the site Upworthy. As the number of news sources and media outlets is constantly on the rise, clickbait can be used as a tactic to compete for attention in a world of distractions and endless media options.
Clickbait headlines will often use shocking hyperbole which can range from a cheerleader gasping with the caption “You won’t believe what happens next,” to “30 Scandalous pictures of [insert celebrity name here],” to a picture of weird looking fruit with the caption “10 weird foods to make you lose 20lbs in 2 days.” Some popular topics include alarming new food discoveries or weird diseases that have no base in science or reality. Clickbait promises money, perfect health, and weight loss, all wrapped up in one convenient article or website. Your eternal happiness is just one click away!
What are the dangers of clickbait?
The less harmful dangers of Clickbait include the viral wildfire of false news stories, inaccurate information, misleading articles, and general garbage content. Even though some clickbait is safe and only seeks to collect page views, it can also infect your computer with malware, such as viruses or spyware. Another potential danger of clicking on suspicious content is Phishing. Phishing involves asking a user to fill out personal information such as a social security number, credit card number, address, or phone number in order to receive a free IQ test, vacation package, or credit score in return.
Some clickbait will lead you to a website that can hack your computer or device via Clickjacking. Clickjacking can be explained by the following quote from OWASP’s website. OWASP is a non profit organization that aims to protect the privacy, security, and safety of software.
“For example, imagine an attacker who builds a web site that has a button on it that says "click here for a free iPod". However, on top of that web page, the attacker has loaded an iframe with your mail account, and lined up exactly the "delete all messages" button directly on top of the "free iPod" button. The victim tries to click on the "free iPod" button but instead actually clicked on the invisible "delete all messages" button. In essence, the attacker has "hijacked" the user's click, hence the name “Clickjacking.”
So download an ad-blocker and maybe some antivirus software because whether we like it or not, Clickbait is a phenomenon that won't be going away anytime soon.