Apple News wants to fight Facebook-induced filter bubbles

As Facebook continues to grapple with its role as a news distributor, Apple is leaning even harder into its own news efforts.

Today, the company announced a new section in the Apple News app that will highlight stories about the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. Like the rest of the app, the section will be curated by human editors and will emphasize “well-sourced fact-based stories to provide readers with relevant, reliable news and information from a wide range of publishers.”

Though Apple doesn’t directly reference Facebook in its announcement, the company is clearly positioning its News app as an antidote to the kind of filter bubbles reinforced by the social network’s News Feed. Instead, Apple News and its editors will take a more even-handed approach, according to its editor-in-chief Lauren Kern.

“When the loudest, most extreme voices dominate that conversation, we can’t hear each other. At Apple News, we want to fix that,” writes Kern. “We won’t shy away from controversial topics, but our goal is to illuminate, not enrage. And we’ll always steer clear of rumor and propaganda.”

Importantly, Apple is not avoiding opinionated content entirely, but instead is taking an approach that tries to emphasize all sides of an issue. A section called “the conversation” will feature “opinion columns about hot-button issues that are intended to offer readers a full range of ideas and debate about important subjects, from news sources they may not already follow.”

It’s an approach that’s similar to the Google News app’s “full coverage” feature, which also tries to push people beyond their filter bubbles with content from a range of sources. 

Additionally, Apple News will also highlight information about local elections, via a section called “On the Ground.” And the company has tapped Axios, Politico, and The Washington Post to create exclusive content for the app. 

The new section comes at a time when tech companies are increasingly grappling with their role as media platforms, in addition to makers of tech products. News has been a thorny area for Facebook in particular, which has faced continued criticism for its role in spreading propaganda, fake news, and other misinformation. 

Facebook, which has been an adamant denier of its role as a media company, has opted to step away from making editorial decisions instead offloading the job onto third-party fact checkers and de-emphasizing the amount of news in its News Feed.

That’s created a gap for other platforms to step in. Twitter has leaned more and more into its role as a news source and Google re-launched its News app earlier this year as well. But while both Google and Twitter rely on algorithms (Twitter also uses human curators), human editors play a central role in Apple News.

Whether or not that will be enough to get users to look beyond their own filter bubbles, is another matter. But, with the ability to instantly push news to millions of iOS users simultaneously, Apple News might just be in the best position to try.

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