Apple CEO Tim Cook wants the tech industry to take action against the “fake news” stories that are polluting the web.
“There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think about each demographic group,” Cook said in a rare interview.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cook also said that “all technology companies need to create some tools that will help decrease the volume of fake news.”
Other CEOs of leading tech companies, such as Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, have talked about the problem in recent months. But Cook’s comments were much more frank.
According to the Telegraph, he said made-up stories and hoaxes are “killing people’s minds.”
And he called the plague “fake news” a big problem in much of the world. ”
The term “fake news” was originally coined to describe online stories that are designed to mislead readers. Often times these stories are shared on Facebook and other social media sites to generate profit for creators. Other times the stories are essentially propaganda made for political ends.
These kinds of stories received a lot of attention before and after the American elections. The fictional stories with titles like “Pope Francis shocks the world, endorses Donald Trump for president” earned millions of clicks.
It can be very difficult for Internet users to distinguish between legitimate news sources and fakes.
That’s where companies like Apple come in.
In an interview with Telegraph, part of a multi-day European trip, Cook said, “Many of us are in the complaint category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”
He called for technological and intellectual solutions.
“We need the modern version of a public service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will,” Cook told the newspaper.
What he described is music to the ears of advocates of media literacy.
“It is almost as if a new course is necessary for the modern child, for the digital child,” Cook said.
There are scattered efforts in some schools to teach media literacy, with a focus on digital skills, but it is by no means universal.
When asked if Apple would commit to funding a PSA campaign, an Apple spokesman said the company had no further comment on Cook’s interview.
The Apple CEO also suggested that tech companies can help eliminate fake stories, although he added: “We should try to squeeze this out without stomping on freedom of speech and press.”
Apple’s own Apple News app has been credited as a relatively trustworthy place to find information.
Company “Reviews Editors Who Join Apple News” BuzzFeed pointed out last December.
And the app has a “report a concern where users can flag fake news or hate speech” feature.
Facebook recently began working with data verifiers to test “warning labels” that appear when users share made-up stories.
Cook, in the newspaper interview, expressed optimism that the “fake news” plague is a “short-term thing: I don’t think people want that at the end of the day.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published on February 11, 2017: 8:00 p.m. ET