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Apple hiring spree for iPhone News curators sparks censorship fears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2015, 8:01am

Apple is hiring editorial staff to oversee and curate content for its soon-to-be-released News app. They will also work with publications to promote breaking stories, new job listings reveal. 

The News app was revealed last week as part of Apple's announcement of iOS 9, the latest operating system for iPhones and iPads. They are both expected to be released in September.

Few details on how the app will work were available at the time, with Apple only saying that publishers would submit feeds from which the app would pull articles. This is similar to how the popular FlipBoard iOS app currently operates.

The new job listings, first spotted by Apple news site 9to5mac, give more insight into how News will function.

Editors will be responsible for gathering “the best” news stories and will be expected to ensure "that important breaking news stories are surfaced quickly, and enterprise journalism is rewarded with high visibility".

Talk of "rewarding" certain stories and human rather than software curation will reinvigourate concerns expressed by many observers last week about Apple's suitability as a news distributor. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Apple is a hot news topic, both for its device and software releases, but also in stories regarding worker rights, copyright and intellectual property issues, tax policy, surveillance and cybersecurity, and censorship

Only time will tell how editors employed by Apple will treat stories critical of the company, or those complimentary of its competitors. 

"As the world's most valuable corporation, [Apple] can't and shouldn't be trusted to present well-rounded coverage on many important topics," industry commentator Gabe Rivera told 9to5mac. 

"But most readers won't care about that." 

Similar concerns have been raised about Facebook, which introduced Instant Articles in March, a feature which enables media companies to publish directly to the Facebook platform, ostensibly to reduce load time for articles that users click on from their feeds. 

Mobile devices are becoming an ever more important means by which users access news. 

According to a recent survey of reader behaviour by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 46 per cent of respondents said they used a smartphone or other device to access news on a weekly basis, up from 37 per cent in 2014. 

The report also showed a 42 per cent increase year-on-year in referrals from Facebook to the top 20 global news organisations, while the number of respondents who said they read or shared news on Facebook in the previous week grew from 35 to 41 per cent over the last year. 

"Fragmentation of news provision, which weakens the bargaining power of journalism, has coincided with a concentration of power in platforms" such as Facebook, Apple and Google, wrote Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre at Columbia University, in the report.