More weapons for the war on manipulative headlines

27 Jan

My post the other day about manipulative headlines looks to have struck a chord. Evidently there are lots of people out there who are fed up with sensationalist headlines and tweets that have clickbait written all over them, but that then link to stories or content that are otherwise a giant waste of time.

A few people messaged me on Twitter to let me know about other tools and resources that can be used to either detect or deflate some of this unfortunate trend. Similar to the @HuffPoSpoilers Twitter account I mentioned in my post, there’s @UpworthySpoiler, which takes the steam out of tweets from Upworthy, another of the worst practitioners of this sort of thing (thanks to @tweetsbykate88 for the tip).

Even better is Downworthy, a web browser plug-in designed by Alison Gianotto, chief technology officer for creative agency firm noise. The Chrome plug-in searches out the worst-offending phrases and replaces them with more honest terms, often with hilarious results.

Here’s what a manipulative headline from Forbes looks like without the plug-in turned on. Note that the headline contains not one but two phrases – “viral” and “blow your mind” – designed to lure eyeballs:


And here is it with Downworthy turned on. Thanks to the plug-in, the two offending terms in question are transformed into what they really mean:

downworthy2The full list of phrases that Downworthy changes, which Gianotto says she is adding to every day, can be found here. Next up are Safari and Firefox versions.

If the manipulators won’t stop writing the headlines, readers will evidently have to take matters into their own hands. (Thanks to @kat_drex for the tip.)

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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in media


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