Facebook’s fight against fake news is going local

Boost or bust?
Boost or bust?
Image: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Facebook is testing a new product meant to help users find local news, events and various community updates.

The product, called “Today In” is only available on the Facebook mobile app and is being tested in six US cities: New Orleans, LA; Little Rock, AR; Billings, MT; Peoria, IL; Olympia, WA; Binghamton, NY.

The content will be pulled from posts already shared by vetted publishers, groups and other pages. The details of the tests were first reported by Recode, and confirmed to Quartz by Facebook.

“Today In” is part of the Facebook Journalism Project, an effort launched a year ago that has been seen as an acknowledgment of the company’s role in the media industry and a way to fix the platform’s often contentious relationship with publishers.

One of the project’s most important mandates is combating fake news, and the promotion of legitimate local news sources appears to be part of this battle (Facebook is vetting local news publishers who will end up in the section). The company has attempted deploying different solutions to the problem of fake news, with varying levels of success.

Whether the “Today In” feature will help boost local media remains to be seen. As Kurt Wagner points out at Recode, the tab is pretty hard to find, buried where many oft-forgotten parts of the app linger.

A company spokesperson was adamant in an email to Quartz that the section will be an addition to local news shared in the News Feed, likely because of publisher fears that they will be booted out of the feed.

The concerns came after the platform pushed content published by Pages, including media organizations, into a separate feed called “Explore” in an experiment in several countries. Publishers worried they would have to pay to have their posts end up in the News Feed, where most users would spend their time, and thus where there is more potential for ad-revenue-generating traffic.

After a huge outcry, Facebook came out forcefully saying there were no plans to roll out the split globally. Still, the speculation that news will vanish from user’s News Feeds remains rampant.