Facebook users will soon be able to get news through a special in-app tab, with the new feature being rolled out in select cities in the United States yesterday, Oct. 25. This comes as the social media giant faced criticism for being a platform for mis- and disinformation.
Facebook News, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during its launch in New York, will be a “dedicated tab for high-quality journalism.”
The feature “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,” the company’s Vice President for Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown and Facebook News Product Manager Mona Sarantakos said in a statement.
In an effort to help the public see the reports that “matter the most” and understand topics that “other people are reading and talking about,” it will also feature a roundup of the most relevant national stories of the day.
According to a July 2019 survey conducted by American fact tank Pew Research Center, 52 percent of adults in the US get news from Facebook.
In the Philippines, 21 percent or one in every five Filipino adults use the platform daily for reading the news, according to the Social Weather Station. It ranks only second to those primarily using television as a news source.
The new feature will provide a daily stream of headlines and article previews curated for each user, decided on by algorithm and a team of human editors.
The Facebook News tab, which will appear similar to the Facebook app’s video-streaming tab called Watch and buy-and-sell section called Marketplace, will feature stories based on a user’s interests and past engagements (such as likes, comments, and shares) with previous stories, topics and publishers. The stories will range from general news, topical news – with a special focus on business, health, entertainment and sports – racial diversity news, and reports produced by local news outlets.
On the other hand, “Today’s Stories,” the section that highlights the major news items of the day, will be hand-picked by a team of journalists hired by Facebook.
“The team… will make curatorial choices independently, not at the direction of Facebook, publishers or advertisers,” Brown and Sarantakos said in their statement. The said team will select stories considering its prevalence, impact, interest and diversity, according to the Facebook News website.
The feature will also enable Facebook users to link their subscriptions to various publications to Facebook.
The introduction of Facebook News is part of the company’s efforts to “sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy,” Brown and Sarantakos said.
“I care about giving people a voice,” Zuckerberg said during the launch, “…but at the end of the day in order for that to be valuable, there needs to be a strong and free press.”
“It’s no secret the internet has really disrupted the news business model. I just think every internet platform has a responsibility to try to help fund and form partnerships to support news.”
For Facebook News, the company partnered with several major US news organizations and some 6,000 local news outlets. News reports earlier in the year reported that publishers were allegedly approached by Facebook with offers as much as $3 million a year to license previews and headlines of their stories on Facebook.
Zuckerberg launched the feature in a media event alongside Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp., which houses The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
The initial test of the feature covers New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta and Boston.
However, Zuckerberg also mentioned that there is a plan to widen the scope of Facebook News’s operations.
“The goal over time is to cover a wider set of publishers,” he said. “Right now we’re launching this just in the US to start now but we want to do something like this across the rest of the world as well.”