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Facebook wants to be your go-to source for vetted local news

facebook, facebook local news
Alexander Kirch / 123RF
The Facebook journalism project that was sparked by interference in the U.S. election could soon bring another feature to the social network. The Facebook local news section, dubbed “Today In,” is currently being tested in six cities. The section lists local news from publishers that have been vetted by Facebook in an attempt to weed out fake news.

According to Recode, the new section houses events, announcements, and emergency alerts as well as local news. The section is tailored to each user’s current hometown, so long as the geographic information was provided in the profile information. Currently, the feature is just a test and only accessible to users living in a handful of U.S. cities, including Olympia, Washington; Binghamton, New York; Peoria, Illinois; Billings, Montana; Little Rock, Arkansas;  and New Orleans.

Exactly what content appears in that Today In section is determined partially by artificial intelligence algorithms. For news, however, publishers will need to be approved before articles pop up in the section. Facebook’s News Partnerships Team is heading up the process of approving news organizations to appear in the section.

In testing, the new feature is accessible from Facebook’s menu, requiring users to navigate away from the news feed to use the feature. Without direct integration into the newsfeed, users may not even realize the feature is there — so Facebook is alerting users that are included in the test with a newsfeed note. Whether or not users will want to regularly check local news by navigating outside the newsfeed will likely be one of the factors the test examines.

If the initial tests are successful, Facebook says that it wants to both roll out the tool to more locations while also adding the ability to follow locations even when the town isn’t listed in the profile. For example, Facebook users could potentially use that option to follow a town that they travel to frequently or once lived in.

The latest test is part of an ongoing effort to fight fake news on the social network, headed up by the Facebook News Partnerships Team. Recent changes also introduced related articles to display any potential disputes to the data and an “i” icon that shows additional details on the source of that article.

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