Apple is launching a section within its Apple News feature for the 2018 midterm elections, the tech company announced Monday.
“Today more than ever people want information from reliable sources, especially when it comes to making voting decisions,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News. “An election is not just a contest; it should raise conversations and spark national discourse. By presenting quality news from trustworthy sources and curating a diverse range of opinions, Apple News aims to be a responsible steward of those conversations and help readers understand the candidates and the issues.”
Perhaps most notably, the company doesn’t use algorithms to help decide what news content is the most legitimate and interesting to its readers for the main component of the app. Rather, it for the most part only employs humans to moderate the platform and decide what sources of information are best — a contrast to the algorithm-centric Google and Facebook.
“Curation has been a guiding principle across Apple News since launch, with a team of editors focused on discovering and spotlighting well-sourced fact-based stories to provide readers with relevant, reliable news and information from a wide range of publishers,” Apple said in the blog post detailing the addition.
It seems that Apple — at least relative to others in the news aggregating industry — is shying away from algorithms, which employ human-designed machine learning to identify key factors for cultivating the most pertinent, intriguing and trustworthy.
Google used algorithms, which are arguably an inherent reflection of their creators, for a fact-checking feature on its search platform, until it agreed with an investigation from The Daily Caller News Foundation that proved the widget to be too flawed for public use. (RELATED: Are Faulty Algorithms, Not Liberals Bias, To Blame For Google’s Fact-Checking Mess?)
But as noted by Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in its report titled “Study: Apple News’s Human editors prefer a few major newsrooms,” “humans, like algorithms, are prone to habit.”
“Apple News may have fallen into a pattern that Facebook and others have been trying to avoid: editorial bias,” wrote Pete Brown of CJF. “A new Tow Center analysis of almost 7,000 recommendations made in newsletters and tweets by the US and UK arms of Apple News shows a strong tendency by editors to favor a small group of big players and less inclination to promote regionally focused news outlets.”
Apple News still uses machine learning algorithms for trending sections to provide users content that cater to their interests, not just general popularity. But overall, at least seemingly more so than others, its using humans editors to find the ostensibly most trusted and reputable news sources. So far, media outlets promoted by Apple News US the most on Twitter are CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, accounting for 28 percent of all mentions, according to CJR.
Apple News for other countries also appears to be showing a preference towards a handful of publications, naturally decided by subjectivity of staff.
Whether using humans, algorithms, or a combination of both to respectively different degrees, trying to determine what news is best for users to see will always be met with criticism, specifically that tech giants — and thus potentially through the personal convictions of their leaders — will editorialize the process.
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