(Credit: Apple Inc.)

Apple announced Monday night that it's launching a midterm elections section in its Apple News app, with particular attention to accuracy in the media. The company contends that Facebook and Google rely mainly on algorithms to filter out the fake news, while Apple will have seasoned news editors sorting content by hand.

Like Google News and the freshly updated Microsoft News, Apple News is a free content aggregator. It collects stories from hundreds of publications and sorts them in the app according to your tastes. The app comes pre-installed on iPads and iPhones, and the upcoming version of MacOS will finally get its own version.

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Apple said it would be partnering with Fox News, the Washington Post, Axios, and other news organizations on specific types of content, ranging from interactive presentations to weekly briefings and in-depth looks at particular races of interest. There's also a section called The Conversation to collect opinion columns from individuals across the political spectrum, and On the Ground, which will focus on articles about local elections.

The 2018 midterm elections are a hot-button issue because Democrats may regain control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well. This raises the specter of impeachment and removal from office for President Trump, whose White House has been controversial from the beginning.

In the wake of his election in 2016, Facebook faced accusations of being lax about the spread of fake news on its social networking platform, which its critics believe had a meaningful influence on the outcome. Apple CEO Tim Cook contends that human curation of political news in its app will prevent this scenario from repeating itself within the Apple News app.

According to the New York Times, Apple and other tech companies met with U.S. intelligence officials at Facebook headquarters last month -- at the social network's invitation -- on the matter of the upcoming midterm elections, but the FBI and DHS were not forthcoming about what they knew.

Facebook's critics allege that British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica hired a researcher named Alexander Kogan to scrape Facebook user profile pages for user data that CA would use to micro-target U.S. voters with false stories designed to sway them toward voting for Donald Trump. This process is known as psychographic profiling, and it was previously applied to Facebook user data in 2013 by researchers at the University of Cambridge. CA denied making any arrangements with Kogan.

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However, whistleblower Christopher Wylie has produced a paper trail that appears to contradict both Kogan and CA. According to Wylie, Kogan had clearance from Facebook to collect its publicly available user data, but only for academic purposes.

This is the kind of quagmire that Apple says it can avoid with its approach to the midterm elections within the News app. With a team of editors sorting featured content by hand and working directly with several outlets, fake news will theoretically take a back seat.

The takeaways

  1. Since Apple News is pre-installed on all iPhones and iPads, the company's midterm elections initiative could have a potentially large influence on both politics and media coverage in general. Websites that trade in provocative content will know that their visibility in Apple News will go down unless they adapt.
  2. Apple wants to avoid the undue voter influence that it believes occurred on social networking sites in 2016.

See also

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.