Facebook was engulfed in a bout of criticisms last year and early in January, the Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would “fix” the platform. Among the criticisms, included the rise of fake news and misleading information and allowing extreme contents or hate speeches to thrive on the platform. As part of the moves to retain sanity to the platform, Mark Zuckerberg announced on his Facebook wall that the platform will shift focus to local news feeds which will now be promoted in people’s news feeds.
“Starting today, we’re going to show more stories from news sources in your local town or city. If you follow a local publisher or if someone shares a local story, it may show up higher in news feed”, he said.
This newest update by Facebook will be first implemented in the United States before it is rolled out to other countries. When local news is prioritized in daily news feeds, people get to understand relevant issues that concern them and affect their lives in such a way that it can foster relationship and enhance engagements. “Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement. People who know what’s happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference“, he said further.
The social media platform recently overhauled news feeds shared by businesses and media outlets in favour of “meaningful social interactions’ to ensure that the main idea behind the platform is not defeated, to encourage more meaningful interactions. Late last year, it also announced that it would deprioritize posts that fish for likes and shares without having meaningful contents.
In as much as these new policies may affect the traffic that the platform pulls, it’s apparent that Zuckerberg wants to do the right thing, regardless.
Initially, he had been reluctant to admit that the platform had a huge impact on the last US election but changed his tune last year after a Russian operation had purchased ads worth $100,000, which promoted a series of politically divisive content ahead of the election. It was after this revelation that the Facebook boss acknowledged that an addiction to social media could be detrimental to users’ mental health.
However, he maintained that a healthy and meaningful interaction is good for users, hence a decision to prioritize more posts from friends and local news, other than a business ad or a viral video which could be harmful or influence users negatively.