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

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

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

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cook also said that “all of our tech companies need to create some tools to help reduce the volume of fake news.”

Other CEOs of leading tech companies, such as Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken out about the issue in recent months. But Cook’s comments were much more blunt.

According to the Telegraph, he said that made-up stories and hoaxes are “killing people’s minds”.

And he called the plague of “fake news” “a huge problem in much 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 types of stories received widespread attention before and after the American election. Fictional stories with headlines like “Pope Francis shocks the world, endorses Donald Trump for president” gained millions of clicks.

It can be very difficult for Internet users to distinguish between legitimate and fake news sources.

This is where companies like Apple come in.

In the Telegraph interview, part of a multi-day European trip, Cook said that “a lot of us are in the complaining category right now and we haven’t figured out what to do.”

He urged both technological and intellectual solutions.

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

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 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 spokesperson said the company had no further comment on Cook’s interview.

The Apple CEO also suggested that tech companies can help stamp out fake stories, though he added: “We have to try to squeeze this out without trampling on freedom of speech and press.”

Apple’s own Apple News app has established itself as a relatively reliable place to find information.

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

And the app has a “report a concern feature where users can flag 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 plague of “fake news” 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 PM ET

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