Over the past few months, a bizarre new trend has started on Facebook - videos that are just still images. The trend is so prevalent that just a week or so ago, my own father asked me why it was happening, and if it made any sense. I have put a lot of thought into the trend, but have been unable to figure it out myself. It's possible that it has to do with analytics for page managers, it's possible that it has to do with auto-play on mobile, or maybe even guaranteeing that different platforms don't resize the image. The most likely cause, however, is Facebook's own algorithm, which often promotes videos over images in news feeds.
Whatever the reasoning, Facebook has recognized the trend as being without benefit, and is working to end the practice. The company will be adjusting their algorithm to end the video promotion. The content will not be removed entirely from Facebook, but it will no longer get the artificial inflation that it had previously received. To accomplish this, Facebook will use a technology they care calling "motion scoring," in which they look for actual motion in the video to detect still images. That should, hopefully, put an end to the trend entirely.
Another similar, but very different trend that has come about is placing a fake play button on top of the image that is shared on Facebook when a link is shared. We've all seen it at least once - it looks like a video initially, but when you click on it, it takes you to a website of questionable value. Those links will also be demoted in the news feed in an attempt to prevent deceptive practices. A spokesperson said,
While the prevalence is statistically low, the frustration expressed by people who use Facebook who encounter these deceptive practices is high.
It's good to see that Facebook is starting to take these issues seriously. As anyone knows, when you add rules to something, you turn it into a game. Sometimes, the best players of a game are nefarious. As far as Facebook is concerned, the algorithm is the rule set, and the fake videos are the result of playing the game. As the referees, it is Facebook's responsibility to make sure that the rules promote the proper behavior, not deceptive practices.