Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple News’ Reliance on Human Editors Reduces Misinformation in the App

Apple granted Jack Nicas of the New York Times a rare glimpse inside its Apple News team’s editorial discussions:

Apple has waded into the messy world of news with a service that is read regularly by roughly 90 million people. But while Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny for their disproportionate — and sometimes harmful — influence over the spread of information, Apple has so far avoided controversy. One big reason is that while its Silicon Valley peers rely on machines and algorithms to pick headlines, Apple uses humans like [editor in chief Lauren Kern].

[…]

That approach also led Apple News to not run an ABC News bombshell in December about Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The story alleged that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that Mr. Trump had directed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. It rocketed across the internet, boosted by Google, Facebook and Twitter, before ABC News retracted it.

Ms. Kern said she and her team did not run the story because they didn’t trust it. Why? It’s not a formula that can be baked into an algorithm, she said.

“I mean, you read a story and it doesn’t quite pass the smell test,” she said.

There has been a rush to make much of the world driven by machine learning because we now can do that, but seemingly few of the people who are a position to make decisions about this have actually questioned whether we should be letting algorithms replace thought. Apple’s solution is imperfect, but it certainly helps reduce the likelihood of embarrassing blunders — even Apple itself can learn from that.