Starting today, Facebook will be testing a dedicated news section called Facebook News. With the new capability, in addition to the articles that appear regularly on one's newsfeed, a separate tab will be set up that will contain a wide range of news articles, including the most relevant national stories of the day.
Below are some salient features of the new feature:
- Today’s Stories chosen by a team of journalists to catch you up on the news throughout the day
- Personalization based on the news you read, share and follow, so you can find new interests and topics and Facebook News is fresh and interesting every time you open it
- Topic sections to dive deeper into business, entertainment, health, science & tech, and sports
- Your Subscriptions, a section for people who have linked their paid news subscriptions to their Facebook account
- Controls to hide articles, topics and publishers you don’t want to see
Facebook News will have content distributed over four broad categories, general, topical, diverse and local news. Facebook gave special mentions to categories like entertainment, health, business, and sports, saying that content related to these was under-served despite its popularity, and this was a consideration when the publishers were selected. The selected publishers will have to abide by the Facebook Publisher's Guidelines, if they want their content to feature. The guidelines include:
"...a range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation — as identified based on third-party fact checkers — community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait and others. We’ll continually check Pages’ integrity status to ensure eligibility criteria is consistently being met. Lastly, they must serve a sufficiently large audience, with different thresholds for the four categories of publishers."
The firm added that its criteria will evolve over time, and it will push for ensuring that categories that are valuable to the audience be sufficiently covered.
Facebook claims that News was designed by keeping a 'consultative' strategy in mind. This means that the firm worked hand in hand with journalists, news organizations, and publishers to refine the product and identify key features.
According to the firm and the collaborating parties, the current algorithms for selecting the content to display have their downsides when it comes to selecting quality and original pieces of journalism. The firm wrote in its press release that "publishers worry that machine learning has limits and they’re right. We have progress to make before we can rely on technology alone to provide a quality news destination."
To remedy this, the social media giant will have a team of curators that will "manage the Today’s Stories section of Facebook News." To keep the content non-partisan and reward original reporting, "the team will have editorial independence and will select stories based on publicly available guidelines."
However, the firm has claimed that it will continue to develop its algorithmic selection of news content as that will be "driving the majority of Facebook News". This will also help Facebook "to serve both people and news publishers, and not just the big national players," the company wrote.
For the initial testing phase, Facebook News will be tested in the United States, in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington DC, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Boston. Facebook says that it will "continue to learn, listen and improve News as it rolls out more broadly," and that it hopes that News helps in the firm's "effort to sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy."