Facebook’s latest step in its on-going effort to fix its embattled news delivery offering involves prioritizing local sources. In a blog post today, the social media giant announced, the site will be working to push local news offerings to the top of user’s feeds, along with the efforts to elevate designated “high quality” content from friends and outlets. As an attempt to step away from national outlets that are regarded as more divisive and/or politicized, the addition to prioritize outlets focused on (and in service of) demographics in smaller pockets- was made. The new feature will elevate news that’s clicked on by users in a tight geographic locale, along with outlets based in that area. Content will also be prioritized as users follow or share stories from specific publications. This change was addressed by Mark Zuckerberg through his own page, citing the basis for this new feature as a recent fact-finding trip around the U.S. “Many people told me they thought that if we could turn down the temperature on the more divisive issues and instead focus on concrete local issues, then we’d all make more progress together,” Facebook’s founder writes. “Local news helps build community — both on and offline. It’s an important part of making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is valuable.” The States will be the first to roll out this feature. The company acknowledges that it will be a sort of work-in-progress, and the site will likely regard it as such as it works out the kinks of its new system. If not balanced with broader, national news coverage; a hyperlocal, decentralized version of Facebook’s newsfeed could ultimately have the effect of further polarizing sources. “This update may not capture all small or niche-interest publishers at first, but we are working to improve precision and coverage over time,” the company writes in the post. “All of our work to reduce false news, misinformation, clickbait, sensationalism and inauthentic accounts still applies”. For publishers who have grown concern over how the sweeping changes made to Facebook’s newsfeed will impact their own social media reach, the last bit comes as a consolation. Meanwhile, Google has been testing its own take on local news recently, with the addition of the Bulletin app, an effort to crowdsource local news reporting.
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