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Facebook News adds section for local UK stories

Facebook is adding a local news section to its ‘Facebook News’ platform in the UK, which will see hundreds of national and local news outlets appear in people’s feeds.

Previously, Facebook users were served news that they had connected with on the platform, whereas now they can choose to receive stories based on their location rather than specific publisher.

The news feature was first launched last year in the US before being brought to the UK in January. The social media platform has partnerships with hundreds of national and local news outlets across the UK.

Facebook has come under increased scrutiny for its news offerings after Australia introduced legislation earlier this year to force the tech giant to pay the country's domestic news outlets for their content.

In retaliation, Facebook blocked its Australian users from sharing news on the platform, before reversing that decision following discussion with the government.

Although Australia is a small market, the effect of the new legislation is being closely watched by regulators in other countries and could be a test case for a bigger global push to force internet giants to share more of their revenue with content providers.

In the wake of that incident, digital secretary Oliver Dowden opened discussions with Facebook executives, including former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg, who is now the social network’s communications boss.

Dowden warned Facebook that “turning the tap off on news in a global pandemic” was “concerning” and a “nuclear option” which must be avoided in future.

Sarah Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships for Northern Europe, said of the new local news feature: “Connecting people to local news has never been so important and many people have come to rely on local outlets for the latest information throughout the pandemic.

“With this new feature on Facebook News, we want to drive traffic to local sites, helping publishers reach new audiences. For people on Facebook, they can now see the local news they care about alongside the biggest national stories of the day.”

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Oversight Board will also shortly begin accepting appeals from Facebook and Instagram users about other people’s content which the platform has chosen not to take down.

The independent board was set up last year and can make binding decisions about content which even top Facebook executives will not be able to overrule.

Since its launch, the board has allowed users to appeal about their own content being removed, but it will now also allow users to appeal over content posted by others.

The functionality for the board’s expanded capacity will be rolling out on Facebook over the coming weeks.

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