Facebook's "Today In"

Examples of the user interface for Facebook's "Today In" feature, which will be tested in the Billings market.

Courtesy Facebook

Facebook users who list themselves as Billings residents will be part of a test program that gathers local news, events and discussions.

Billings is one of six cities chosen by the tech company to test the "Today in" feature within the mobile app, the company said on Wednesday. Billings users may begin seeing the feature in the next week.

Other cities in the initial rollout are New Orleans; Little Rock, Arkansas; Peoria, Illinois; Olympia, Washington; and Binghamton, New York.

According to Facebook, the "Today in" feature will include local news, community updates, group discussions and local events. The feature will be separate from users' main feeds and publisher pages, such as the Billings Gazette.

When available, the feature can be accessed by tapping the menu (☰) then then tapping on 'Today in,' a Facebook representative said.

Facebook, which has more than a billion worldwide users, has been trying out various journalism-related initiatives after the 2016 campaign season.

During that time, misinformation posts reached millions of users through viral posts and targeted ad campaigns. Some of that content in 2016 was pushed by Russian-backed entities trying to sow discord in American politics — a revelation cemented during Congressional hearings with Facebook, Google and Twitter in November.

Part of Facebook's news effort is its News Partnership Team, led by former NBC News correspondent Campbell Brown. The team helped to develop the "Today in" feature.

Local news outlets increasingly reach readers and viewers through Facebook, and the "Today in" feature will be a collection of content that publishers already post to their own pages.

Prominent placement on the "Today in" feed will rely, in part, on the frequency of posts by a publisher and user engagement, according to Facebook.

The "Today in" feature will get oversight by both humans and computer programs. In addition to news outlets, the feature may include posts made to public Facebook groups that garner a lot of engagement.

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.