Is Facebook Supplanting Local News? [Content Made Simple]

Issue #215: Pinterest doesn't forget miscarriages, Facebook comments optional, and more.

In a Pennsylvania town, a Facebook group fills the local news void

Facebook's groups have been crucial for information-sharing, especially during a pandemic and in a growing number of areas where local newspapers have been shuttered. At the same time, the groups have turned into hubs for misinformation, partisan squabbling and vigilantism.



The day after Thanksgiving 2019, residents of Chippewa Township, Pennsylvania, watched from their windows as state and local police combed through their backyards looking for Kyle Michael Jones. 

Jones, 26, had a long rap sheet for offenses like reckless driving and disorderly conduct. He had responded to an officer's attempted traffic stop by jumping out of his car and making a run for it. 

Information about Jones wouldn't be public for days, so as helicopters flew overhead and police dogs searched the surrounding woods, residents logged on to Facebook. And that’s when the fear, and the exaggerations, and the falsehoods begin to circulate and multiply.

"Word is he escaped from Detroit where he killed someone," a woman offered in The News Alerts of Beaver County, a public Facebook group where 43,000 members — roughly a quarter of the county population — post and comment on local news from potholes and closing businesses to lost dogs and suspected criminals on the loose. 


Such an interesting story and perspective from Brandy Zadrozny, one of my favorite social media and internet culture reporters.


No pod this week. Back next week.


Link #1: I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget

What a heart-wrenching story about a sad reality.

Of the thousands of memories I have stored on my devices—and in the cloud now—most are cloudless reminders of happier times. But some are painful, and when algorithms surface these images, my sense of time and place becomes warped. It’s been especially pronounced this year, for obvious and overlapping reasons. In order to move forward in a pandemic, most of us were supposed to go almost nowhere. Time became shapeless. And that turned us into sitting ducks for technology.

Link #2: Facebook now lets users and pages turn off comments on their posts

Interesting feature! We talk about it on the Social Qs podcast releasing next Tuesday.

Facebook will allow every user including celebrities, politicians, brands and news outlets to determine who can and can’t comment on their posts.

The social media giant announced on Wednesday that when people post on Facebook, they will be able to control who comments on the post, ranging from everyone who can see the post, to only those who have been tagged by the profile or page in the post. It is similar to a change recently introduced by Twitter to limit who can reply to tweets.

Link #3: Yahoo Answers will be shut down forever on May 4th

I remember spending an inordinate amount of time answering Yahoo Answers questions in my high school journalism class while procrastinating on my actual work. It makes me sad to see it going away even though I haven’t been to the site in years.

Yahoo Answers, one of the longest-running and most storied web Q&A platforms in the history of the internet, is shutting down on May 4th. That’s the day the Yahoo Answers website will start redirecting to the Yahoo homepage, and all of the platform’s archives will apparently cease to exist. The platform has been operating since 2005, and in the years since its relevance as a meme haven has remained intact while its practicality as a forum has waned during the rise of Reddit, Quora, and other competing internet hangouts.


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