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As the Facebook data privacy debate rages on, The Social Network is pushing ahead with its plan to increase civic engagement, and promote The Social Network as a force for social good.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the expansion of their ‘Community Boost’ initiative, in which the company will send a team on the road, visiting smaller cities to teach digital literacy. Furthering that local focus, Facebook has also announced that their dedicated local news segments within the News Feed, which they first announced in January, are now being extended to more US cities.

As explained by Facebook:

“Earlier this year we started testing a dedicated section on Facebook that connects people to news and information about their community, called ‘Today In…’. We’ve seen a positive response from people and are expanding this test into 25 more US cities over the next few weeks.”

As you can see from the above example, the ‘Today In…’ segments will appear in relevant user feeds, highlighting the top news stories, events and announcements in your vicinity.

The program was initially launched in six US cities, and will now be rolled out to the additional, following regions: 

Anderson, SC; Bismarck, ND; Bloomington, IL; Boise, ID; Charleston, WV; Chattanooga, TN; Columbia, SC; Decatur, IL; Franklin, TN; Evansville, IN; Greensboro, NC; Greenville, SC; Huntsville, AL; Poughkeepsie, NY; Lafayette, LA; Lakeland, FL; Macon, GA; Myrtle Beach, SC; Santa Rosa, CA; Sarasota, FL; Saint Joseph, MO; San Angelo, TX; Shreveport, LA; Tyler, TX; York, PA

As noted, the move is in line with Facebook’s broader effort to become a more positive element in the community, and to facilitate civic participation, connecting people to more relevant, timely information. This comes after Facebook commissioned a study which found that passive consumption of social media content can be bad for mental health, while active participation can have significant benefits.

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Following the misuse of their platform to influence political opinion, Facebook’s very keen to underline the good that it serves, the benefits it can provide. The focus on local news is part of this effort.

For publishers and brands, the change puts more emphasis on local content.

Local publishers are already getting a News Feed boost through a recent change to the algorithm, while for brands, creating local event pages and better connecting with your communities, could help generate more exposure through this new tool.

Indeed, Facebook notes that:

“Our goal is to show more information that connects people and publishers to their local communities as part of our commitment to show high quality news that’s broadly trusted, informative and relevant.”

Better connecting with local community organizations, and participating in civic events – and highlighting that via your Facebook presence – could help generate more reach through this initiative. 

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