Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Monday that Facebook users will start to see more local news stories in their News Feed. The announcement marks the third major change to the News Feed that Zuckerberg has unveiled this month. The updates, he has said, are designed to offer more “meaningful” interactions on the social network and to boost the quality of news that audiences read on Facebook.
“Starting today, we're going to show more stories from news sources in your local town or city,” Zuckerberg said in a blog post. “If you follow a local publisher or if someone shares a local story, it may show up higher in News Feed.” The new emphasizes on local news media will begin in the United States and expand to users in other countries later this year, he said.
Zuckerberg said the decision was based on greater demand from users for more local news. He also cited his experience traveling across the country last year, when, he said, many people told him 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.”
The change comes as Facebook grapples with the aftermath of the Russian disinformation campaign during and after the 2016 presidential election. The company said it is trying to improve the quality of news that readers see on Facebook and to offer users more posts from people they know.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would shift the focus of its News Feed to promote “meaningful” posts, mostly those shared by family and friends rather than news organizations or brands, a move that ignited concerns from the ecosystem of companies that have come to rely on its platform.
Last week, Facebook went further. With the goal of distributing high-quality news, Zuckerberg said Facebook would roll out user surveys to gauge the trustworthiness of different media outlets. This move, too, raised criticism that Facebook would elevate partisan news outlets with loyal audiences, or that bad actors could manipulate the survey to undermine the integrity of the results.
Critics were also concerned that local, niche and start-up news organizations would suffer as a result of the trust surveys. The targeted audiences of those types of outlets are much smaller than national and global news brands. Zuckerberg attempted to address those issues with the latest News Feed update.
Facebook users and news outlets should expect yet another update. Zuckerberg said he has directed his product teams to prioritize news that is “trustworthy, informative, and local.” The two most recent updates apply to trust and local news. So it's likely Zuckerberg's next update will grapple with the “informative” aspect of news.