Facebook Takes First Steps Towards Building a Dedicated, 'Trusted' News Section

Back in April, as part of an interview with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg flagged The Social Network's intent to create a new, dedicated news tab within Facebook, which would showcase content from, in Zuckerberg's words, 'high quality, trusted' sources.

As per Zuckerberg:

"One of the things that's really worked over the last year or two is we've launched [Facebook Watch] for video, where people who weren't getting all the video they wanted in News Feed could go to a place that's a dedicated space to get video. Because that has started to really grow quickly, we've decided that there really is an opportunity to do something like that with news as well."

And this week, reports have suggested that Facebook is taking this idea to the next stage - according to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is now offering news outlets "millions of dollars" for the rights to put their content in a dedicated news section, which Facebook is looking to launch before the end of the year.

"Representatives from Facebook have told news executives they would be willing to pay as much as $3 million a year to license headlines and previews of articles from news outlets, the people said."

The initiative would mark the first real push into news content since the demise of Facebook's Trending News section last year - Facebook's Trending News listing, which used to have a prominent home at the top of News Feeds, was embroiled in controversy back in 2016 over suggestions that Facebook employees had manually amplified and/or suppressed stories in its Trending headlines, sparking questions of the company’s role in the media cycle.

Facebook sought to correct this by getting rid of human moderators and switching to an impartial, algorithm-based Trending News listing. But that also had its issues - most notably, it highlighted, and amplified, several controversial and/or fake reports.

In response, Facebook opted to remove the section entirely, and avoid the related concerns. But as Zuckerberg notes, there is demand for news content on Facebook, research shows that some 43% of Americans get at least some news content from The Social Network.

Facebook can, and does, play a role in news sharing. It just needs to get it right.

The proposed new News section - essentially Facebook Watch for News - would serve as a means to fill this need, while it would also enable Facebook to maintain some level of control over the content displayed by choosing the partners it works with, and highlights within the stream. That, in itself, could still cause Facebook headaches - just this week, reports suggested that The White House is considering an Executive Order which would task the FCC with developing new regulations that would determine when and how social media companies filter posts, videos or articles on their platforms.

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