Facebook testing new feature to host city-specific local news
11 January 2018, 09:19 | Jodi Jackson
Facebook testing new feature in six US cities that shows local news, events
The social network is testing a new section inside its app called "Today In", a feed made up entirely of local news, events and announcements. Local news sources are vetted and approved by a human first before they're added, the company noted. This issue has been a hot topic ever since the 2016 USA presidential elections and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been on a personal mission to end "fake news" sharing over his platform since. Facebook is giving a good look at the configuration and testing of this engaging new attribute. From what has been revealed, Facebook is now conducting the test in a handful of cities around the United States - New Orleans, Louisiana; Olympia, Washington; Billings, Montana; Binghamton, New York; Peoria, Illinois and Little Rock, Arkansas.
A machine learning (ML) software will power the "Today In" section, helping a team find local content.
The project is part of Facebook's Journalism Project initiative, which it launched past year following the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Facebook's new Journalism Project initiative and the new section does away with the pointing fingers. Eventually, the company hopes to roll it out to more locations and allow users to follow a city they don't reside in.
It still remains to be seen that whether this section will benefit local publishers or not.
Users in the initial test batch of cities can access the feature in the bottom menu of the mobile Facebook app. It is also possible that being part of a separate, local section of the app will help drive more traffic back to publishers' stories and websites. The social network has been trying to weed out misinformation and hoaxes on the news feed, and has tried using third-party fact checkers to curb the problem.
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