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Facebook is hiring journalists to curate its news tab

Key Points
  • Facebook is assembling a small team of veteran journalists to curate news in its soon-to-launch news tab.
  • The team will be charged with selecting national stories that appear in the tab's top news section.
  • Other content in the news tab will primarily appear via algorithmic selection.
The Facebook logo is displayed during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Facebook confirmed on Tuesday it's hiring a team of veteran journalists to help curate stories in its soon-to-launch news tab.

The company confirmed the plans after The New York Times reported that Facebook is bringing human curators on board instead of just relying on algorithms to determine what stories its users see.

A small team of editors will be charged with selecting the most relevant national news stories of the day. The content will appear in the top news section of the tab, a new feature that's scheduled to launch this fall.

The team will curate breaking news and top stories, but won't be responsible for other editorial duties, such as editing headlines, stories or writing content, the company said.

Other content in the news tab will primarily appear via algorithmic selection. Facebook said it will look to user controls, what pages users follow, publishers they subscribe to and the news they interact with as signals for what kinds of personalized news will populate the news tab.

"Our goal with the News Tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people," Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnerships, said in a statement. "The majority of stories people will see will appear in the tab via algorithmic selection."

"To start, for the Top News section of the tab we're pulling together a small team of journalists to ensure we're highlighting the right stories," she said.

The social media giant has approached several news outlets, including The Washington Post and Bloomberg, to discuss paying them as much as $3 million per year to license content, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook emphasized that the news tab is not a reincarnation of the company's now-defunct trending topics news section, which ranked news topics and links based on popularity.

The feature attracted scrutiny after controversial links and false headlines made their way onto the section. In 2016, a Gizmodo article alleged some independent contractors hired to moderate the section frequently suppressed conservative stories and stories about Facebook itself.

Just on Tuesday, a GOP-led interim report analyzing claims of liberal bias on the platform said Facebook still has a lot of work to do to win the trust of conservative users

The news tab marks Facebook's latest effort to tackle news curation and combat the spread of misinformation on its site. The company has been under pressure to curb false news on the platform since the 2016 presidential election, during which foreign actors used the site to sow division around social issues.

Facebook isn't the only tech company that is increasingly relying on professionals to curate what news its users see. Apple assembled a team of former journalists to help select some of the stories that appear in Apple News, while LinkedIn has also hired editors to curate content on the site.

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