Facebook announced two updates designed to connect users with more trusted local news Monday. The first is a new section called Today In, dedicated to local news, information, and events from select outlets. Facebook is also updating its News Feed to prioritize stories from local sources, calculated by comparing a user’s location to the place where the majority of a news outlet’s readers are.
Facebook selected six markets to initially test Today In — Olympia, Wash.; New Orleans, La.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Little Rock, Ark.; Billings, Mont.; and Peoria, Ill. according to Recode.
“When I traveled around the country last year, one theme people kept telling me is how much we all have in common if we can get past some of the most divisive national issues,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Many people told me they thought 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 announcement comes as Facebook attempts to curb disinformation and increasing “meaningful” interaction among users. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg pledged to make it his personal mission for 2018 to fix some of the issues that have plagued over the past year.
Facebook allowed agents of the Russian government to buy political ads and spread organic posts that reached millions around the 2016 election, leading to a tense series of congressional hearings. The company also came under fire for allowing posts with information fabricated (by domestic and international users) to spread.
Today’s announcement is part of a series of changes Facebook is making to combat the spread of so-called fake news. In December of 2016, Facebook rolled out new tools allowing users to report posts they believed to be fake. The social media giant partnered with independent fact-checking organizations but a year later, reports surfaced that those same fact-checkers considered the program to be a failure, claiming their work had been exploited to improve Facebook’s image. Facebook eliminated tools that allowed users to mark news stories as “disputed” at the end of last year, replacing them with related articles.