Apple CEO Tim Cook calls for “massive campaign” against fake news

What to do with viral

Apple CEO Tim Cook wants the tech industry to take action against the “fake news” polluting the web.

“There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think about each demographic,” Cook said in a rare interview.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Cook also said that “we technology companies need to create tools that help reduce the volume of fake news.”

Other CEOs of big tech companies, like Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken about the problem in recent months. But Cook’s comments were much more candid.

According to the Telegraph, he said fabricated stories and hoaxes “kill people’s minds.”

And he called the scourge of “fake news” “a big deal in much of the world.”

The term “fake news” was originally coined to describe online stories designed to deceive readers. Often times, these stories are shared on Facebook and other social networking sites to generate profit for the creators. Other times the stories are basically propaganda made up for political ends.

These kinds of stories received a lot of attention both before and after the US election. Fictional stories with headlines like “Pope Francis Shocks the World, Endorses Donald Trump for President” won millions of clicks.

It can be very difficult for Internet users to differentiate between legitimate sources of information and fakes.

This is where companies like Apple come in.

In the Telegraph interview – part of a multi-day European trip – Cook said “too many of us are just in the complaints category right now and haven’t figured out what to do”.

He advocated both technological and intellectual solutions.

“We need the modern version of a public service ad campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will,” Cook told the newspaper.

What he described is music to the ears of media literacy advocates.

“It’s almost like a new course is required for the modern child, for the digital child,” Cook said.

There are scattered efforts in some schools to teach media literacy, with an emphasis on digital skills, but this is by no means universal.

When asked if Apple would commit to funding a PSA campaign, an Apple spokesperson said the company had no further comment on Cook’s interview.

The Apple CEO also suggested that tech companies can help eliminate false stories, although he added, “We must try to reduce this without hampering freedom of speech and of the press.”

Apple’s Apple News app has been viewed as a relatively reliable place to find information.

The company “reviews publishers who join Apple News,” BuzzFeed noted last December.

And the app has a “problem reporting feature where users can report fake news or hate speech.”

Facebook recently started working with fact checkers to test the “warning labels” that appear when users share made-up stories.

Cook, in the newspaper interview, expressed optimism that the scourge of “fake news” is a “short-term thing – I don’t think people want that in the end.”

CNNMoney (New York) First published on February 11, 2017: 8:00 p.m. ET

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