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Facebook, Apple disagree on how to curb fake news for US midterms

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APPLE CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on June  4. — AFP

APPLE and Facebook have figured out how to keep us glued to their devices and platforms. But they haven’t figured out how to curb the misinformation that plagued them during the 2016 election and have struggled to regain public trust. And now, in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, they certainly don’t agree on a solution.

Last week, Apple launched a human-curated political news section to help readers steer clear of falsehoods surrounding the midterms. The company’s announcement reignited a fiery debate with Facebook about whether tech giants should hire people to curate news or rely on algorithms instead.

Apple has used human editors to curate news content in “Top News” and other specialized sections since the application first launched in 2015, and said it will continue to do so for the midterm elections news section. The company uses a combination of human editors and machine learning to manage more tailored content in personalized feeds for users.

“News was kind of going a little crazy,” said Apple, Inc. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Cook at the recent Fortune CEO Initiative, subtly referring to Facebook’s struggle with the foreign actors such as Russia, profiteers and bots that took advantage of its News Feed algorithms for financial and political gain during the presidential election. “We felt the top stories should be selected by humans,” Cook said.

Apple’s midterm election section will feature material from the Washington Post, Politico, and Axios, in addition to coverage from other sources the company describes as “trustworthy.” But critics contend this coverage is limited, given that Apple’s curators will only promote articles from a few legacy outlets. The inclusion of the Trump administration-friendly Fox News also struck a chord. — Bloomberg