Revised News Section of Facebook Launches in the United States With a Focus on Local Sources

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Revised News Section of Facebook

Facebook is releasing its updated news tab in the US, TechCrunch says, and the launch will include a dedicated local news section among other subjects, including a George Floyd-specific section.

Only by tapping the hamburger menu, selecting “see more,” and scanning through a handful of other sections can you find the tab on mobile right now. It was first tested last October and Facebook said it would compensate participating publishers at the time.

It’s impossible to cover Facebook News properly without noticing how the company has had a long and troubled history of how it handles news. Facebook had offered a short list of trending stories throughout its network years ago.

But it later fired the editors who curated that news, and its algorithms instantly posted fake news to the baseless list. The functionality was discontinued in June 2018.

Over the years Facebook has also tried to serve poorly performing publishers.

It hosted “Instant Articles,” which restricted ads, subscriptions and publishers’ recirculation modules, causing many to reject the feature. It referred to the “shift to video,” but exaggerated its video benchmarks, then turned back on paying publishers, wiping out several businesses.

In 2018, it planned in its News Feed to give preference to friends and family posts, decreasing referrals to news outlets.

Then there’s the not insignificant issue of the role of Facebook in reporting fake news — including the distribution of misinformed links published by misleading organizations for years.

Also, its platform was used to spread propaganda and disinformation. It was called out as being too favourable to either side. But it’s a whole different matter!

Facebook is taking a different tack on News this time.

The News tab will appear to all U.S. users as a bookmark (under the three-lined “more ” menu), Facebook says. Those who visit the bookmark frequently will see News available as a tab (a button in the Facebook app).

The notifications appear at the top, and may include live video alerts or breaking news. For instance, you might currently see live coverage of the funeral of George Floyd, or maybe an important news alert concerning coronavirus.

Facebook also had a way for users to keep up with local stories through its news discovery experience “Today In,” which was a different tab. The company says it will be combining the content of that tab with Facebook News over the coming weeks to make its News section a single platform for users to remain updated with local news.

The News feature is now live on mobile phones, but the desktop tab has yet to be launched.

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