Reductress is a well-known feminist satire site that skewers clickbait-y women’s media — popular articles include “Wealthy Friend A Totally Free Spirit” and “These Women Are Beautiful, Even Though They Are All Freshwater Catfish.” Facebook periodically tries to cut back on sensational, low-quality “clickbait” content by reducing the reach of pages that post it. Facebook is also a gargantuan platform policed by a combination of automated systems and overworked moderators. You won’t believe what happened next.
This morning, site co-founder Sarah Pappalardo posted a Facebook alert that “Reductress has reduced distribution because of repeated sharing of clickbait.” According to Pappalardo, Facebook cited a couple of examples of clickbait content — all of which were “pretty run-of-the-mill,” they told The Verge. (One was a headline reading “Wow! This Ethical Brand Only Sells One T-Shirt But They Worked Really Hard On It.”)
Pappalardo says this hasn’t happened to Reductress before. “This appears to be a case of just ignorant regulation,” they tell The Verge. “The fact that we satirize women’s media — a genre that’s already relegated to being clickbait — puts us in danger of being lumped into the very thing we’re satirizing.” But they’re frustrated by the lack of communication with Facebook. “You have no idea who is reviewing this content, or if they even bother to research who they are throttling.”
Facebook has faced increasing calls to keep bad content off the platform, but that’s created problems for satire sites that either imitate this content or could be mistaken for it. Earlier this year, it flagged a story from Christian satire site The Babylon Bee as misinformation, warning the outlet that more offenses could hurt its distribution. Facebook later apologized for not correctly identifying the article as a joke. The company didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the Reductress situation — so we don’t know whether this was a deliberate decision made with a full understanding of the context, or simply a mistake.