Clickbait: Why it Must be Stopped

Dear Senator Warner,


I am writing today to inform you of a horrible new trend sweeping the Internet. Though we agree that Internet usage should be cost-free once people have access to the World Wide Web, there are still ways to get around free websites: by allowing the commercial businesses to place ads and attention-getting notices throughout the Internet. One of the biggest ways this is happening is the new phenomenon of Clickbait. Clickbait is problematic because it is so hard to determine what is clickbait and what is not. Oftentimes you do not realize something was clickbait until you are far into the article or website.

The largest area in social media that causes alarm today is clickbait. defines clickbait as, “a sensationalized headline of piece of text on the Internet, designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page” (Dictionary). The problem with clickbait is that it is tricking the reader. “It’s rarely newsworthy, but it does attract eyeballs. The assumption seems to be that audiences might stay for the “serious” content after gorging on the fluff” (Dvorkin).

Clickbait is dishonest, and some would even argue that it is illegal. It is illegal because it lures the readers into sites and areas that they do not know they are getting into. They are stuck there and sometimes don’t even realize that by clicking on the article and later clicking on ads inside the article, they have gone to a whole new place. It is one thing to run ads down the side of the website, the way Facebook and Craigslist do. Even free companies allow advertisers to place their commercials on the side of their email site. But customers know for a fact that they are clicking on the ad when they do so. Clickbait does not want readers to do that.

Who uses Clickbait? According to in a recent study conducted by the Universities of Mississippi and Oklahoma, “In short, they say that both “mainstream media” and “unreliable media” often use clickbait–and that it grew in prevalence between 2014 and 2016. Specifically, 19.46 percent of headlines were “clickbait” under their definition in 2014; 23.73 percent in 2015; and 25.27 percent in 2016” (Researchers). Twenty-five percent is one fourth of all headlines in 2016. That’s a lot of fake news, or at least exaggerated news!

This example from CNN shows you that sometimes we read clickbait without knowing it. CNN posted an article titled, “Intel Analysis Shows Putin Approved Election Hacking”(M). The article title uses the word “hacking” even though there is no proof of this provided anywhere in the article. CNN posted this article knowing that the title would entice people to click on it, and once the reader got to this article they realized the title was misleading. The problem is, if websites can make clickbait titles that seem this real, none of us stand a chance of determining what is real and what is not.

If websites and companies are allowed to post misleading titles and links that take you to ads you were unaware of, how will we continue to navigate the internet? These two things make searching online more difficult because it requires the reader to weed out the fake titles and ads. And in the end, will it help the publishers of the fake news? According to the article, “Long term, media that don’t deliver, ultimately won’t be trusted. (Although unfortunately, they often drag others down with them, too)” (Researchers). Sometimes the article lures the reader in with a shocking headline. Other times the reader is reading a traditional style article and inadvertently clicks on an advertisement in the middle of the article. This immediately leads them to a new link and they can be distracted or confused without realizing the site has changed.

According to Change, in a recent study conducted by their company, of the top fifty news sites, eighty-two percent use content ads (Clickbait). These ads are also known as Clickbait. Among these content ads were Clickbait, blog content, fake news, advertisers, broken links and finally, some real news. The readers have to sort through all of these areas in order to find the real news. Change Advertising also suggests that perhaps the closer relationship between the advertisers and the articles indicates that the advertisers sponsor more or less all of the content.

Forbes Magazine reports that there are several reasons consumers choose to click onto Clickbait: curiosity, emotion, exclusivity and challenge (DeMers). Curiosity and emotion are obvious reasons people choose to read articles that have catchy or remarkable headlines. Exclusivity refers to the extreme claims such as “only one in one hundred people” will do a certain thing or react a certain way. Challenge refers to comments such as “you’ll never guess what happens next”. Readers want to know what will happen next and want to read on.  Forbes goes on to name the strategies that the Clickbait writers use to lure readers in. These include the following phrases: will make you, this is why, can we guess. These phrases also entice readers to click due to their natural curiosity and human emotion.

The solution to the problem of clickbait is to require Congress to pass a law requiring all journalism to consist of genuine stories. The benefits that will result are that journalists will be forced to do authentic research, verifying sources and then readers will know that what they’re reading is accurate. The way to implement this solution is for an ordinary citizen to suggest it to his/her congressman. The congressman would need to discuss this problem with others in his office in order to raise awareness. People whose lives have been impacted by this fake news could be called upon to testify before Congress about their personal stories. Also, a fine or sanctions could be imposed upon news companies who continue to use fake news through clickbait after the law is passed. Already Google has begun to tighten their requirements on their advertisers in order to validate the truthfulness of claims (DeMers).

The way this solution should be implemented is that first a law be passed. Secondly, the government would create a program to monitor news websites and institute a program a fines and punishments, should the websites not comply. Thirdly consumers would be given the job to act as watchdogs to report any misuse of the sites. Forbes goes on to state that Facebook has gone a step further to update its newsfeed algorithm to reduce the number of Clickbait articles (DeMers). Change Advertising suggests that we could also create more advertising disclosures and improve the quality of the websites (Clickbait).

The opposition of this law would include the publishers of the clickbait websites as well as the advertisers on these sites. From personal experience I have accidently clicked the advertisers on the clickbait, not realizing I was doing so, and I imagine that happens to a lot of internet users too. Whether or not they purchase anything is not the point. It’s simply that they’ve clicked on the link and have accessed the content accordingly.  Advertisers count the number of visitors to the sites and rate their effectiveness by the visitor count.  These advertisers would oppose the implementations of limits due to the fact that it would limit or eliminate revenue they could obtain from these sites. However, if they would place their ads in spots where their consumers choose to click on them, their revenue would be higher anyway.

If you were to pass a law, making clickbait illegal, it would help millions of American consumers be able to access trustworthy, honest news stories, written by qualified journalists. It would hold writers up to a higher standard. It would make obtaining daily news from the Internet a safe activity. Perhaps writers could learn from the enticement of Clickbait and determine how to write eye-catching headlines that tell true stories. Writers know what works for readers and should apply it to the articles that they write honestly. I know that not all commercial enterprises will agree with this proposal. But I also know that the decisions that you make are for the best of the American people, therefore you will do the right thing.

Sincerely, Morgan Bentham-Schwier


Beaujon, Andrew. “The Real Problem with Clickbait.” Poynter, The Daily Beast, 16 July 2014,
DeMers, Jayson. “Is Clickbait Dying, Or Stronger Than Ever?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 July 2017,
“”,, 30 July 2018,
Dvorkin, Jeffrey. “Column: Why Click-Bait Will Be the Death of Journalism.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 27 Apr. 2016,
“CNN’s Clickbait Headlines Intentionally Dishonest.” The Max Blog, 25 Mar. 2017,
“The Clickbait Report.”, Change Advertising Inc, 2016,
 “These Researchers Studied 1.67 Million Clickbait Headlines. What They Found Will Totally Shock You.” Edited by Bill Murphy Jr,,, 22 Mar. 2018,;_ylt=AwrE19wU02RbtLAAQl9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=clickbait+images&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=94&

CATFISHING: Is That  Really You In The Pictures….?

 By Morgan Bentham

Catfishing, or portraying yourself online as someone else, is sweeping the internet and social media. With technology use on the rise, people have the world at their fingertips. What people choose to do with this is sometimes frightening. Catfishing is deceptive and hurtful because in most cases these people involve themselves in romantic relationships.

As the Washington Post states, “This phenomenon known as catfishing is a uniquely modern one: a single lie, enabled by the cloak of technology, that stretches, morphs and multiplies until whole personas are

fabricated, emotions are manipulated and hearts are broken” (McCarthy).

According to Krystal D’Costa, an author for Scientific American, “59% of Internet users feel that online dating is a good way to meet people (compared with 44% in 2005)” (D’Costa). That puts 59% of internet users at risk of being catfished. These accounts must be deleted, and the criminals must be stopped.

In today’s society so many teens and young adults are searching for meaning in relationships. But as evidenced by the constant uploading of selfies online, people feel the need to always look the best for their social media accounts. People want to find love and happiness but feel too self-conscious to be themselves online. They create profiles of themselves portraying the people they want to be, but later when the truth comes out, there are many hurt feelings.

The problem is, oftentimes the photos people post are photoshopped to make the person look “prettier” or “more handsome”. Because these photos are edited, people are longing to look like a person who is not showing their true self. People go as far to use the photos of someone else they find online. They steal a completely separate identity and set it up as theirs.

MTV’s “Catfish” is a show revealing cases of catfishing. The hosts, Yanev “Nev” Shulman and Max Joseph, “document the stories of people who have been in online relationships for lengthy periods of time without meeting the other person” (D’Costa). The hosts then help the victims find out who they are really involved with.

The outcome of the show can be shocking, and some cases end sadly. This show is raising awareness about these fake accounts and helping to shut them down. This show was created after Nev Shulman himself was catfished and made a movie about it. After the success of the movie, the show was created in hopes of raising awareness of this disgraceful act that people are committing on the internet, which it is now doing.

Catfishers can be male or female though they tend to be primarily male. They can be all ages and from all walks of life (Cassada). They live across all areas of the world and seem to be from all sorts of social-economic backgrounds. They are masters at manipulating the internet and using it for personal gain instead of for useful, helpful purposes.

The purpose of the internet is not to deceive people and manipulate them into falling for something that isn’t real. It is to broaden our horizons and even to make the world seem smaller by connecting us all. Catfishing doesn’t connect anyone. It creates victims of not only the person who thinks they are talking to someone who they are not, but also the person whose pictures are being used to hurt someone. It also creates suspicion in them that will affect them even in their future relationships.

This problem is such a large problem in our society that police departments are creating task forces to target it. Sometimes in attempts to catch the criminals, “Police will create a false online persona to lure out potential suspects. Just earlier this year, police in Florida baited and caught over 50 men just by going catfishing” (Cassada).

In addition to relationship predators, catfishing is used to lure girls into the sex trafficking trade as well as to kidnap both boys and girls. This unprecedented misuse of a public platform is unacceptable.

Boys and girls beginning in elementary school need to be taught internet safety and the proper use of personal information online. Parents have the responsibility of protecting their children everywhere, including online. It is the parents’ responsibilities first and foremost to create in their children a healthy respect for the vastness of the internet, and also to warn them of the potential pitfalls.

People of all ages and genders need not to feel embarrassed for who they really are, but to embrace it! To not be ashamed and to not hide behind a false identity. Let’s raise awareness that we are all special and can all be ourselves! Let us all use the internet in a truthful way and not intentionally hurt people.

Cassada, Raychelle. “The Two-Sided Face of Teen Catfishing.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 July 2018,
D’Costa, Krystal. Catfishing: The Truth About Deception Online. 25 Apr. 2014, Accessed 22 July 2018.
McCarthy, Ellen. “What Is Catfishing? A Brief (and Sordid) History.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 9 Jan. 2016,;_ylt=AwrJ6ysN02RbiTMAVTBXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=catfishing+the+internet&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=11&

There are three subcategories that I see when looking at my online identity from the outside in. A clear majority of what I post online is related to my family. My family is quite large, as I have 6 siblings, and we are all very close knit. We tend to take a lot of pictures when we are all together, whether at home or out somewhere for an event etc. and I often post these pictures on my social media to show extended family and to have as a memory. When it comes to my belief system, I am a very conservational and “green” person, and one would be able to pick up on this from my social media. Lastly, the smallest chunk of what I post is related to things I like to do or consume in my free time. It could be related to a show or movie I like, food I ate somewhere new, really anything. This is a way that someone could get to know a little bit about my personal interests. The three components of my social media accounts are my social identity, belief system and recreational hobbies.

When looking at my Facebook account one will see photos of not only my close family, which I mentioned is large, but also my extended family which is even larger. Facebook is a place where my family likes to share pictures and stay connected with what the rest is doing. An example of a post from my Facebook is “Had a great time tubing on the Shenandoah with the fam!” and with this post photos from the day are linked. The post also has the members tagged so that the photos will appear on their wall. The reason my Facebook is mostly made up of posts about my family is because that is who I chose to be friends with on Facebook. I see Facebook as a social media platform for older people, in other words, people older than me. I maintain a Facebook account, so I can access my older sister’s pictures of her toddler and see what her family is up to, among other activities. When writing on Facebook, because I know family will be reading it, I tend to write in complete sentences and use correct grammar. I also tailor my words and posts to be appropriate, as I know my grandmother is reading it. In this way, my Facebook identity also represents my academic identity.

By looking at my Twitter account it is clear that I care about recycling, conserving the Earth and the oceans, and living a vegetarian lifestyle. The things I retweet or favorite on Twitter show my thoughts on these things and also show my hobbies and interests. The online representation of myself reflects my academic identity because on both sides I am promoting helping the Earth and helping others. In my academics I focus on Special Education, which is also something I share a lot about on social media, whether it be an article or a picture of an activity I participated in relating to Special Education. When retweeting threads about ways to properly recycle I am doing so in hopes that the people I follow will see them and follow what they say. My Twitter personality is different from Facebook, partly because my Twitter friends are a completely different audience. I often retweet other people’s words because I like considering other points of view. My mom and older sister do not follow me on Twitter, neither do my grandparents or my aunt and uncle. This is a different audience and I have a different personality.

Instagram is my favorite way to share with friends and family the fun things I am doing. While on Facebook I will write about what I did with family, Instagram is usually more focused on fun activities. My Instagram is also made up of interesting foods I’ve eaten and travels I’ve taken. It’s more of a photo site and one doesn’t need to place a whole lot of captions because the pictures speak for themselves. I am a big picture taker, but again, this platform is different from Facebook because the audience seeing my pictures is different.

I enjoy having different online accounts because I’m a little bit different for each audience. If you visited one of my social media profiles you would not get the whole picture of who I am. I did that on purpose. I think it’s important to keep some things to yourself. In the future, if I want to create a blog or a professional teacher Instagram or Twitter, as it will be important for that professional person to be different from the real me. As for now, I believe each of my social media accounts are appropriate for who is reading them. Over the years since first acquiring online accounts, I have greatly slowed down my online posting and have become very particular about what I post. Being cautious of what you post is a good idea for everyone, as what you say online can really come back to get you. From looking at my different accounts you will see the parts of me that I want you to see, and not the parts I chose to keep private. My online identity and my academic identity are very similar to each other as I chose my words online and in person very carefully.;_ylt=AwrE1xtx02RbolEAPx1XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=social+media+icons&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=8&






Hello! I’m Morgan, and I am a Junior at Longwood University, pursuing a major in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Special Education. Helping others is something that I have always found pleasure in, so I enjoy all my major-related classes as they assist me in achieving my goals and solidifying my ideal future.

I aspire to be a special education teacher, and this vision was cemented after gaining experience as a summer camp leader for my county over the past four summers. Working with these children brought me joy and satisfaction that I had not felt before, and from then I knew that this career was my purpose.

This blog, as well as this English class, will hopefully improve my ability to have a professional personality and appearance, as this is definitely something that is necessary to have as an educator.