32,000 users at war with clickbait under the same banner: the Baitman Facebook page, "the clickbait avenger". With their #baitstorm, a “recurring initiative in which our vast community, 32,000 members strong, spoils the posts of specific Facebook pages for 24 hours”, they have entrenched themselves in the battle for accurate information and users' time: “every spoiler we provide can save the user at least 5 minutes a day” which, when multiplied “across all our members, in one day we potentially save almost 4 months of collective time. A precious gift that we provide our community every day." A considerable effort to eliminate what they call "information junk food" in their interview with Blasting News.

What are the reasons that, in your opinion, lead to clickbait? Given that the practice was born to lure readers with deliberately forced titles and therefore gain the greatest possible remuneration, in your opinion is it more intellectual laziness, lack of news, or a consequence of hastily slinging out content like fast food?

The push towards clickbait can be seen as a matter of survival in the digital arena. Imagine making information online like wandering in a vast desert, with every editorial team desperately searching for "water", i.e.

the reader's attention. In this context, publishers find themselves facing almost endless competition, depending heavily on the limited revenues offered by advertising systems and social platforms. Added to this is an apparently insatiable appetite for content on the part of the average user. When we combine these elements with a certain amount of incompetence and a natural risk aversion on the part of some content creators, we get the perfect recipe for clickbait.

There was a discussion on your page between users who tried to differentiate the curiosity gap (a practice that consists of giving information but omitting particular details to push the reader to discover them by reading) and actual clickbait, what did you take from that?

The distinction between clickbait and curiosity gap is crucial to maintaining integrity in information.

When we talk about curiosity gap, we are referring to the practice of stimulating the reader's curiosity, without deceiving them. It's like when Alice, driven by curiosity, falls down the rabbit hole and discovers a fantasy world beyond. However, the real clickbait problem emerges when the reader's curiosity and trust are betrayed. Too often, online, what is promised through catchy headlines is not delivered in the actual content, disappointing the reader. The important thing is, therefore, to inform ourselves, educate ourselves and develop a critical approach towards what we read, in order to distinguish between information presented with integrity and a misleading attempt to attract clicks.

When you carry out "baitstorms", i.e. series of comments in which you reveal the content of clickbait titles to prevent readers from opening the articles, do they produce results?

Our #baitstorm is a recurring initiative in which our vast community of 32,000 members will "spoil" posts from specific Facebook pages for 24 hours, particularly those that employ clickbait as a predominant tactic. The main goal is to increase awareness of social media users. Imagine seeing a lot of spoilers on posts from one of your favorite pages; this leads you to think: "Why are they doing this?", "What does spoiler mean?". And perhaps, you might even ask yourself, "Is this page trying to trick me? Are they using me?" But the impact doesn't end there.

Each spoiler we provide can save the user at least 5 minutes a day, time that would otherwise have been wasted on useless articles and avoiding invasive pop-ups and banners. If we multiply these 5 minutes by all our members, in one day we potentially save almost 4 months of collective time. A precious gift that we provide our community every day.

Yet the same comments and reactions cause those same pages to increase their value on social media. Is there a solution to all this?

Whoever manages these pages and information sites is, in our opinion, a dead man walking. The essence of any business, even in the information field, is the brand: the values it shares, the message it transmits and the trust it builds with its audience.

Many of the pages we targeted are viewed with skepticism even by their readers, precisely because of the clickbait tactics adopted. This approach, focused exclusively on short-term gain, compromises the perception of the brand and the quality of the information provided. Trading long-term integrity and trust for immediate gains is strategically short-sighted. We believe that unless they change direction, these publishing entities will not remain competitive for very long.

Have you noticed different styles of clickbait? If so, can you tell us which ones you find most annoying?

Clickbait manifests itself in numerous forms and techniques. Some of the strategies are more harmless, such as the famous "10 things that...", while others are more deceptive, such as images that suggest different content than what is actually presented.

However, what we consider particularly deplorable are clickbaits that speculate on human dramas. A recent and rather disconcerting example concerns the tragic train accident near Turin, in which five workers lost their lives. A few days after the accident, a popular Italian page released a headline claiming to show video of the accident, capitalizing on the curiosity and emotion of the moment. However, the video actually presented was related to a completely different incident in Chile. This type of tactic, which plays with the public's emotions and expectations for personal gain, is, in our opinion, deeply wrong and represents the darkest side of clickbait.

Clickbait and misinformation: do they go hand in hand?

There is certainly a correlation between clickbait and misinformation, but it is essential to understand that they are not synonymous. Clickbait, as the name suggests, is primarily designed to grab the reader's attention and encourage a click, and often uses sensationalistic or misleading headlines. These headlines can lead to perfectly accurate news, although perhaps irrelevant, or so general that it doesn't require a full article. On the other hand, disinformation concerns the spread of false or misleading information. Both of these practices, however, have in common the intention to deceive or manipulate the reader for personal ends, whether financial, political or otherwise.

What are the next steps and when will we get rid of clickbait?

The solution to the clickbait problem lies in the evolution of various players in the information landscape:

Reader: Awareness is key. An informed reader can recognize clickbait and choose not to support such practices by selecting quality information sources.

Content Creators: The emphasis needs to shift from quantity to quality. Those who produce content must also learn to take more risks by creating something innovative and different from the competition.

Economic Model: The expectation that online information is free is problematic. Other monetization models, such as microtransactions, should be considered to support the creation of quality content.

Social Platforms: They have a great responsibility and it is time for them to take a clearer and more courageous position.

They should implement more rigorous mechanisms to identify and penalize clickbait, while protecting authentic content creators.

Looking to the future, we are confident that the clickbait phenomenon as we know it today will fade. However, given its pervasiveness and multifaceted nature, it may take a decade or more before we see a real decline.