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Facebook will push local stories in news feed

It’s just the latest change CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making to the way Facebook decides what it'll show you.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook said it's emphasizing local stories in its news feed. 

James Martin/CNET

Facebook's news feed has another new focus: local news.

The social network on Monday said it'll start to emphasize news stories from local publishers in an area where a person lives. That means if you follow a local news outlet, or if someone shares a story from a news outlet in your area, it might show up higher in your news feed.

"People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. "Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives."

Our next update on our 2018 focus to make sure Facebook isn't just fun but also good for your well-being and for...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, January 29, 2018

This is the third big announcement Zuckerberg has made about the kinds of things the news feed will show you. Earlier this month, he said Facebook's algorithms would prioritize posts from family and friends over posts from brands and media outlets.

Still, he said that while Facebook will show you fewer news stories overall, news articles will not disappear from the news feed. Instead, Zuckerberg announced Facebook would prioritize stories from more "trustworthy" news outlets, after asking users to rank them according to trust level. 

Now Facebook is emphasizing another signal: local impact.

The changes come as Facebook has faced scrutiny about its influential algorithms and the massive power they have over what people see online. Meanwhile, Facebook is still reeling from its role in the 2016 US election, in which Russian agents misused Facebook -- along with rival platforms Google and Twitter -- to push misinformation and sow discord among Americans.

Zuckerberg said on Monday that his decision to make the push in local news came at least partly from his whirlwind tour of the US last year, in which he traveled to 30 states he'd never been to.

"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," he wrote. "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."

All of these changes to news feed are part of Zuckerberg's broader plan to try to make sure Facebook plays a positive role in people's lives. Every year in January, Zuckerberg announces an annual personal challenge -- like a New Year's resolution on steroids. Previous challenges include his tour of the US, learning Mandarin and vowing to only eat meat he hunted himself. This year, though, his annual challenge was focused squarely on "fixing" Facebook itself:

"The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do -- whether it's protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent," he wrote. "My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues."

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