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Facebook gets a lot of flack for just reinforcing your world views in its News Feed echo chamber instead of challenging your opinions. That’s because you choose exactly which friends and Pages to follow, so liberals might skip Fox News or Breitbart while conservatives avoid The Atlantic and Huffington Post. But Facebook’s newest feature could bring a wider range of sources to your News Feeds.
Today TechCrunch spotted a “Topics to Follow” box in the News Feed that lets you swipe through a range of themes like Theater, Horror Movies or Photography. Tapping “Follow” brings you to a dedicated feed for that theme populated by a collection of Pages that publish about the topic. You can tap through to see all the Pages you’ll then see public posts from in your main feed.
Facebook confirms this is a new “small test,” and a spokesperson provided this statement:
“We’re testing ways for people to subscribe directly to topics in News Feed so they can see more stories about topics they like. In addition to following specific Pages, this is a new way to follow the general topics you’re interested in.”
If the feature proves useful, it might get rolled out more widely. But it could also be scrapped if people find it confusing or unhelpful.
For now it almost seems that Facebook purposefully strayed away from controversial or polarizing topics. The most incendiary one I saw might have been “Ocean Science & Conservation.” But you can imagine how the feature might work for topics like “Donald Trump,” “Healthcare,” “Refugees,” “Taxes,” “Terrorism” or others. By pulling from news sources across the political spectrum, Facebook could expose people to contrarian views that might make them think twice about believing everything they read, question the bias in their preferred sources and understand how their fellow citizens perceive news.