Facebook's latest journalism fix connects users with local news

Helping local publishers find their audience in the community.

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg and company announced the Facebook Journalism Project -- an initiative to repair the social network's reputation with journalists and help fight the spread of fake news. The project already introduced curated news digests and some general tweaks to the News Feed that will help cut down on clickbait, but the next journalism-focused effort aims to connect users with nearby news outlets and community groups.

In an email exchange with Poynter, a Facebook spokesperson mentioned three new local news products currently in testing: the first lets the moderators of community-linked Facebook groups add a dynamically populated local news section to the page. The content block will pull stories from local publications that can easily be shared into the group for discussion.

A second product will show up for users who have their current city set to public -- if your location is set to the same metro area as the publisher of the story you're commenting on, Facebook will ask you if you want a badge on your comment identifying you as a local.

Finally, a third product will push users to share local news articles with relevant local groups they belong to. The algorithm can also do the reverse and suggest local groups for you to join based on the articles you consume. In this case, Facebook defines a relevant group as one that shares at least three local news links per month, talks about local news and is located in the same metro area as the publisher links it discusses.

According to Facebook, the local badge is live today. The other two products are still in testing, so they may already start showing up for certain groups that fit the criteria. While Facebook does have a vague new mission to spread civility online by connecting people with their community, other hyperlocal social networks like Nextdoor have had trouble dealing with racial profiling, even on non-anonymous platforms.