A computer programme taught to generate clickbait news headlines claims 2013 was the year of the self-driving car and that One Direction have been killed in a fire. The programme, which replicates the luring links of sites such as Buzzfeed, is the result of feeding a neural network with two million sensational headlines.
Created by Norwegian developer and blogger Lars Eidnes, the clickbait generator creates headlines which play on readers' curiosity and dumps them onto a website designed to look like BuzzFeed, called Click-o-Tron. In a bid to "free up clickbait writers to do useful work", Eidnes used an artificial neural network to create a prediction machine.
By teaching the programme to predict what word should come next in a sequence like 'Which Disney character are...', Eidnes was able to create automated clickbait headlines which, although not always grammatically correct, often have a similar structure to those created by human writers. In some cases, the computer's lack of understanding context led to some plausible and sensational – but wholly fictional – headlines.
Eidnes blogged about his project, musing that, although the software doesn't understand the context of any word it uses, so cannot be reporting known facts, "it's not clear that clickbait needs to have any relation to the real world in order to be successful". Referring to some genuine Buzzfeed headlines, Eidnes said: "It's not clear that [the headlines] are much more than a semi-random concatenation of topics their userbase likes... 100% correct grammar is not a requirement."
Here are some of the headlines the artificial intelligence writer came up with:
- The 34 greatest photos of political history
- How the world's most extreme baby moms lost weight
- 2013: The year of the self-driving car
- John McCain speaks out in his own words
- Beyonce discusses River Island
- Should we stop using the world 'double'?
- Tips and beauty at 2014 Oscars
- Why the National Dog Food Movement is a disaster
- Facebook wants you to get paid on the job in the media