Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), which has long been criticised for ill-treating news publishers and spreading fake news via its social media platform, is all set to reboot and revamp its News section. After being first launched in October 2019 for beta testing, this improved Facebook News feature is finally rolling out to all users in the United States today.
So what exactly can users expect with this revamped product? Well, for starters, Facebook users will be able to express their opinions only via reactions as the comments section on these news articles will be disabled. That being said, users will continue to retain the ability to share these articles along with now being in control of which publishers they want to see the news from. All Facebook users will be given an option to hide articles, topics and publishers they do not want to see news from.
This dedicated Facebook News section, in addition to using algorithms to better personalize the story selection for Facebook users, will also be using human journalists. Apart from that, the company will be fact-checking for misinformation by looking at various signals such as data from third-party fact-checkers, clickbait titles, engagement and more.
According to Facebook, the newly launched News tab will appear to all US Facebook users as a bookmark on mobile. Also, those who will frequently visit the bookmark will be then able to see News available as a tab.
Facebook To Reboot Their Approach To News?
It should be noted that this particular move by the social media behemoth is quite undoubtedly geared towards encouraging more publishers to associate themselves with its platform as the company has promised them increased distribution. However, if it will be able to successfully deliver on its promise is something that is still being highly debated as they have been consistently ill-treating online publishers over the last few years.
Facebook Instant Articles was launched back in 2015 which happened to restrict advertising, subscriptions and the recirculation modules all major publishers relied on. That quickly led to many publishers soon abandoning the feature. After that Facebook started to pull back on paying publishers which again enraged the publishers and lastly in 2018, the company decided to prioritise posts from friends and family in its News Feed which shrank referrals to news outlets to a bare minimum.
Also, one must keep in mind the social media giant’s long and troubled past with how it has handled the news in its initial and previous attempt. Back in 2016, human editors who happened to curate news for the now wiped out ‘Instant Articles’ section of Facebook were fired and replaced with algorithms which quickly went haywire and started posting fake news in the feature from unchecked organisations.
This time around, according to the company they are trying out a well-vetted approach with News and are hopeful they will do right by their users as well as the publishers they are sourcing the news from. The company has also been testing out news videos, something which it didn’t have last fall. Along with this, they have also introduced a local news section to Facebook News, which according to them, will be bringing thousands more local and regional publications into the mainstream spotlight.
Facebook, in a statement, has told news outlets that apart from having 200 general publishers, the majority of their publisher strength now comprises local news outlets. The social media platform has reported having a different tab labelled as ‘Today In’ in the news discovery experience to distinguish between local news and general news.
Lastly, in the coming several weeks, Facebook said it plans to combine both the local news tab with the general news tab in order to make the News section a single place for users to keep up with all things related to the news.
Now it remains to be seen how well does this newly rolled out News Section work out in the U.S. and if they will further roll out the feature worldwide soon. We will keep you posted on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.