Apple CEO Tim Cook wants the tech industry to take action against “fake news” polluting the web.
“There needs to be a massive campaign. We need to think about every demographic,” Cook said in a rare interview.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cook also said that “all of our technology companies need to create tools that help reduce the volume of fake news.”
Other CEOs of major tech companies, like Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken out about the issue in recent months. But Cook’s comments were much more candid.
According to the Telegraph, he said made-up stories and hoaxes “kill people’s spirits.”
And he called the scourge of “fake news” “a big problem in many parts of the world.”
The term “fake news” was originally coined to describe online stories designed to mislead readers. These stories are often shared on Facebook and other social media sites to generate profit for the creators. Other times, the stories are essentially propaganda made up for political purposes.
These kinds of stories attracted widespread attention before and after the US elections. Fictional stories with headlines like “Pope Francis Shocks the World and Endorses Donald Trump for President” have garnered millions of clicks.
It can be very difficult for Internet users to differentiate between legitimate and fake news sources.
This is where companies like Apple come in.
In the Telegraph interview — part of a multi-day trip to Europe — Cook said that “too many of us are just in the complaining category right now and don’t know what to do “.
He advocated solutions that were both technological and intellectual.
“We need a 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 media literacy advocates.
“It’s almost like a new course is needed 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 whether 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 weed out false stories, while adding: “We have to try to reduce that without encroaching on freedom of speech and of the press.”
Apple’s own Apple News app has been considered a relatively reliable place to find news.
Company ‘reviews publishers joining Apple News’ BuzzFeed noted this last December.
And the app has a “report a concern feature where users can report fake news or hate speech.”
Facebook recently began working with fact-checkers to test “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 ultimately want that.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published February 11, 2017: 8:00 p.m. ET