(Pocket-lint) - Facebook has launched a new section, specifically for finding major and local news, inside its main mobile app. And soon it'll expand beyond the US. Called Facebook News, it is described as a "dedicated place for news on Facebook", and it's primarily intended to provide Facebook users with more control over their news experience and the news stories they see on the platform.

Facebook said it surveyed publishers, journalists, and over 100,000 people on Facebook in the US to learn more about how people consume news on Facebook. It wanted to see what topics they were most interested in, and it found it was "under-serving" many topics people wanted to see most in their news feeds. As a result, it's come up with Facebook News. Here's how it works.

When will Facebook News be available?

Starting in 2019, Facebook began testing News among a few hundred thousand users in the US. In June 2020, it became available to all in the US. In August 2020, Facebook revealed it would expand its news feature internationally within the next six months to a year. 

It could arrive in the UK, Germany, France, India, and/or Brazil, Facebook said in a blog post. Facebook will pay news publishers for their content.

How do you find Facebook News?

Facebook News is a new tab in the Facebook app. It appears as a bookmark - under the three-lined “more” menu - on mobile. Those who frequently visit the bookmark will see News available as a tab or button in the Facebook app.

Note: The News desktop tab has yet to launch.

Facebook

How does Facebook News work?

Facebook said it wanted to build a place for users to find more news on Facebook. Facebook News will, therefore, feature a wide range of news content across four categories of publishers: General, topical, diverse, and local news.

Here are the key features of Facebook News:

  • Today’s Stories: These are stories hand-curated by a team of journalists.
  • Personalised experience: You will see news based on what you read, share, and follow on Facebook.
  • Topic sections: You can explore more news in topic sections like business, entertainment, health, science and tech, and sports.
  • Your Subscriptions: You can link your paid news subscriptions to your Facebook account and access them from the Facebook app.
  • Control: You will have the ability to hide articles, topics, and publishers.

Facebook said it wants to recognise original reporting, as it's more expensive to produce. So, its curation team of journalists, who manage the Today’s Stories section of Facebook News, will reward original stories by choosing them first. Also, since the announcement of Facebook News last fall, Facebook has added more features, such as breaking news alerts, timely news digests, and targeted notifications.

Note: Facebook also plans to combine the “Today In” local news discovery experience with Facebook News sometime in 2020.

Which publishers are on Facebook News?

Facebook News will serve up reporting from over 200 general news publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and BuzzFeed. According to The Verge, it's even paying some publishers, offering a new revenue stream in the industry. Facebook said publishers who wish to participate will need to be in its News Page Index, which it developed in "collaboration with the industry to identify news content".

Publishers will need to abide by Facebook’s Publisher Guidelines, which supposedly includes "a range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation - as identified based on third-party fact checkers - community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait, and others". Facebook has promised to continually check integrity status to ensure eligibility criteria is being met.

As for the smaller publishers, the social network said it will start by showcasing local original reporting from local publications in the largest major metro areas across the US, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston. In the coming months, it'll include local news from over 6,000 US towns and cities.

Can you trust Facebook News?

We don't know.

Facebook hasn't released the full list of publications joining Facebook News, raising serious concerns about its potential to spread fake news. But Facebook said it uses journalists to help program Facebook News, and there's an underlying algorithms for customising your story feed. Users can react, articles, and hide articles, but they can't comment. They can also hide topics and publishers.

Want to know more?

Check out Facebook's announcement blog post for more details. You can also learn more about Facebook News at www.facebook.com/news.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.