Many people continue to use social media as a source for news and information. This trend is great for platforms like Facebook that get a lot of traffic to their social network from people sharing articles they find online. However, it's no secret that people use social media platforms to share hoax news stories. With the next presidential election around the corner, Facebook is testing a new way for people to find accurate news on the platform.
Facebook is introducing a dedicated place on the Facebook app that's devoted to news. The section will single out headline news of the day and stories based on the user's preferences, but it doesn't stop news articles from appearing in the News Feed of Facebook users as they currently do. In a sense, Facebook News is very similar to Google News.
In a blog post in late October announcing the feature, Facebook wrote, "Today, we're starting to test Facebook News, a dedicated place for news on Facebook, to a subset of people in the US. News gives people more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests, directly within the Facebook app. It also highlights the most relevant national stories of the day. News articles will continue to appear in News Feed as they do today."
Facebook has worked with publishers and journalists to decide on the kinds of articles that will be featured on Facebook News. There will be a "Today's Stories" section that will be chosen by a team of journalists to catch users up on the news throughout the day. It will be interesting to see how Facebook balances the selection of articles to avoid allegations of bias.
Users will also have control over what articles they are shown. There will be some personalization based on the articles that the Facebook user reads, shares, and follow. So the Facebook News won't solely be curated by Facebook's team of journalists. And like most news apps, there will be topic sections that include more articles on subjects such as business, entertainment, health, science & tech, and sports.
Personalization is algorithmic, but there will also be a Subscriptions section. This section will contain articles from paid news subscriptions that users have linked to their Facebook account. For those hoping that Facebook News will reduce the "echo chamber" effect, think again. Users will have "controls to hide articles, topics and publishers you don't want to see."
Facebook says that Facebook News will feature a wide range of content from publishers who are categorized as either general, topical, diverse and local news. These categories were based on a survey of 100,000 users who Facebook asked what kinds of articles they want to see and which topics were underserved.
Getting articles featured on the Facebook News section will require publishers to achieve a certain standard of quality. They need to be on the platform's News Page Index, which Facebook is said to have developed in collaboration with the industry to identify news content. Sites that want their articles included will also have to meet Facebook's Publisher Guidelines, which includes following rules against "misinformation -- as identified based on third-party fact checkers -- community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait, and others." Facebook also says they'll "continually check Pages' integrity status to ensure eligibility criteria is consistently being met." This tactic will prevent sites from changing the quality of their writing once they've been approved.
This initial test will be based on local, original reporting from publications in major metro areas in the US, beginning with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston. Facebook plans to expand the feature over the coming months to include more local and community news.
For more recent news about changes and updated to Facebook, read this article on Facebook's new rules involving cosmetic and weight loss content.