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Facebook expands new tool aiming to shrink 'news deserts'

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is trying to coax “news deserts” into bloom with the expansion of a tool that provides people with local news and information, but says it still has a lot to learn.

The social media giant said Thursday it is expanding its “Today In” service to 6,000 cities and towns across the U.S., up from 400 previously. Launched in early 2018, the service shows people local news and information, including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements.

The tool lives within the Facebook app, where users can turn it on if they want to see local updates in their regular news feed. Facebook says in areas with a dearth of local news, it supplements with articles from surrounding areas.

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press