Auditing News Curation Systems: A Case Study Examining Algorithmic and Editorial Logic in Apple News
This work presents an audit study of Apple News as a sociotechnical news curation system that exercises gatekeeping power in the media. We examine the mechanisms behind Apple News as well as the content presented in the app, outlining the social, political, and economic implications of both aspects. We focus on the Trending Stories section, which is algorithmically curated, and the Top Stories section, which is human-curated. Results from a crowdsourced audit showed minimal content personalization in the Trending Stories section, and a sock-puppet audit showed no location-based content adaptation. Finally, we perform an extended two-month data collection to compare the human-curated Top Stories section with the algorithmically-curated Trending Stories section. Within these two sections, human curation outperformed algorithmic curation in several measures of source diversity, concentration, and evenness. Furthermore, algorithmic curation featured more “soft news” about celebrities and entertainment, while editorial curation featured more news about policy and international events. To our knowledge, this study provides the first data-backed characterization of Apple News in the United States.