While it continues to fend off criticism about Cambridge Analytica, alleged “Russian interference” in U.S. and European elections and referendums and, today, the extent of its access to its users’ mobile phone records, Facebook has today announced it will take its strategy of prioritizing local news globally.
The Silicon Valley based organization was criticized following the U.S. election in 2016 for facilitating what many refer to as “fake news”.
It has taken a number of steps in recent weeks and months to address the criticisms, the most notable being a decision to prioritize local news content — ahead of what it refers to as “divisive” national news content — in News Feed.
The initial announcement on prioritizing local news was made at the tail-end of January 2018 and the update was only initially rolled out to users in the US; however, in its latest announcement on the update, Facebook has declared it will now roll out the update to all users and in all countries and languages.
Facebook has also stated it will define a publisher as local if people in a particular city are more likely to read content from that publisher than people outside that same city.
The announcement comes in the aftermath of a whirlwind media tour by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who, in an interview with technology news website Recode, stated last week “I feel fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California in an office making content policy decisions for people around the world”.
The update is part of a concerted effort on Facebook’s part to prioritize “meaningful interactions” with friends and family ahead of what it refers to as “passive consumption” of content.
According to comments from Zuckerberg prior to the publication of Facebook’s Q4 earnings report, this change in focus has resulted in U.S. users spending 50 million fewer hours on the social network.
It also announced earlier this month it has selected 50 publishers to test a new feature which will allow them the opportunity to label posts as “breaking news”.
Facebook didn’t specify which publishers have been selected, however it did state that tests show adding a “breaking news” label can improve shares by up to 11 percent.