Recode reports that Facebook is testing a new local-news section from vetted sources called “Today In,” testing it in six cities, including Little Rock:
Facebook is using machine-learning software to surface content in this new section. Local news publishers who appear there will all be approved and vetted by the company’s News Partnerships team, which is overseen by former NBC news anchor Campbell Brown, according to a company spokesperson.
The section will include events and announcements in addition to news reports, and source from local publishers and local authorities, all of it vetted as reputable by Facebook. This is part of the company’s “Journalism Project Initiative,” which was launched after factually ludicrous propaganda, purporting to be reported news from trusted sources, spread widely via the site during the U.S. presidential election.
I’ll register a skeptical voice here: We have allowed a scattering of technology corporations to accumulate size, power and influence that is arguably unprecedented in the history of the nation, with the potential for more reach and scope across the economy and into our daily lives than even the giant monoliths of the Industrial Revolution. Facebook has near-monopoly dominance and is accountable to no one but its own bottom line. To the extent that information is increasingly delivered through Facebook’s filters, I don’t have much faith in the company as vetter and curator in chief.
Recode asks about the impact on local publishers:
The question is whether or not the section will benefit local publishers. It’s possible that being part of a separate, local section of the app will help drive more traffic back to publishers’ stories and websites where they can make money through advertising, but there is no way for publishers to make money off the new local section at launch.
Even generating that extra traffic will depend on whether or not Facebook users frequent the new section. Facebook plans to alert people in the six test cities that the new feature exists, but after that, “Today In” will appear in the menu (☰) where Facebook has dozens of other lesser-used sections of the app that you might easily forget about.
In addition to Little Rock, the test is also running in New Orleans, La.; Billings, Mont.; Peoria, Ill.; Olympia, Wash.; and Binghamton, N.Y. Eventually the company plans to roll it out in more cities.