The social network is currently testing a new "Today In" section within its app that collates announcements, events, and news based around a particular user's locale — it could be Today In New Orleans, or Today In Little Rock.
Facebook Tests Today In
The test is only active in six cities, the two aforementioned ones, plus Billings, Peoria, Olympia, and Binghamton. Users whose profiles say they live in those cities are presently able to view the said section to see local information, such as stories from local publishers or emergency alerts specific to their cities.
To make the section possible, Facebook is relying on machine learning software. A spokesperson for the company says publishers and news sources which appear in Today In are vetted by Facebook's News Partnerships unit, which former NBC News anchor Campbell Brown oversees.
No To Fake News
Today In is a part of the Facebook Journalism Project, which was launched following 2016's fake news-laden presidential election, which saw Facebook rife with countless fraudulent news items and misleading articles. As a result, many criticized the social network and hailed it as one of the enablers of President Donald Trump's victory.
As part of the effort, Facebook has also launched several other features aiming to weed out fake news from the site, such as special breaking news labels for publishers and identifiers for stories which are disputed by the company's fact-checkers.
Today In Coming To More Cities Eventually
Facebook hopes to launch Today In in more cities after testing, and overtime, users will be able to follow news and information from cities they don't live in, said a Facebook spokesperson.
On paper, the feature sounds like a great way for Facebook users in a specific city to feel more connected to what's happening in their area. Users will also have the benefit of knowing that the stories they see in that section have been checked by Facebook itself, so they don't have to worry about items being fake. It also redirects users' attention from the vast chaos of algorithmically defined news feeds toward a more familiar ones. If anything, it makes each person's news feed more tailored to them and where they live.
How the company's stockholders, publishers, and advertisers welcome this new shtick remains to be determined, however. But for regular users, it definitely sounds pretty useful.