Facebook News, the social network’s dedicated section devoted to journalism, is today launching for all users in the U.S. The feature was first introduced in October 2019 as a limited test in the U.S. The product represents Facebook’s much-debated new effort in wooing publishers to its platform with the promise of increased distribution.
It’s impossible to properly cover Facebook News without noting how the company has had a long and troubled history with regard to how it handles news. Years ago, Facebook offered a short list of trending stories across its network. But it later fired the human editors who curated that news, and its algorithms immediately posted fake news to the untended list. That feature was removed in June 2018.
Facebook has made News accessible to all American users as a bookmark, but it’s only available to “millions more” than previously as the promised tab.
Thankfully, there’s more to the rollout. You’ll see a local section in news that brings in more region-specific updates. The Today In discovery feature will weave its way into Facebook News in the “weeks ahead,” and the company is either introducing or testing features like news video (a test), targeted notifications, breaking news alerts and digests that recap larger events.
The deployment underscores Facebook’s attempt to fill gaps in local news coverage, if sometimes gaps that it created by speeding the death of local newspapers. It also comes at a crucial moment. The pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and the looming US presidential election make access to news all the more vital — it’s not clear if Facebook will offer an alluring take on that news, but there’s undoubtedly a large potential audience.