Tim Cook Says Fake News Is 'Killing People's Minds'

The Apple CEO is urging tech companies and governments to publicly address the dangers of misinformation.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling on government agencies and tech companies to work together on a public service campaign to combat the spread of fake news.

The proliferation of misinformation is a “big problem in a lot of the world” and is “killing people’s minds in a way,” Cook said Friday in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” Cook said.

The tech leader said he believes a wide-reaching PSA campaign (see: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and “This is your brain on drugs”) is needed to address the scope and dangers of fake news.

“It can be done quickly if there is a will,” Cook said. “It has to be ingrained in the schools. It has to be ingrained in the public. ... We have to think through every demographic.”

Cracking down on illegitimate news sources may be a necessary step in protecting the Fourth Estate. But it’s also challenging ― just ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Republicans and Democrats both criticized the social media company for its role in news dissemination during the election, although one side thought it meddled too much and the other thought it didn’t step in enough.

“We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press, but we must also help the reader,” Cook said. “The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, nonsensational, deep news outlets will win.”

Fake news sources eclipsed major news outlets on Facebook in the final three months of the 2016 election ― by more than 1 million shares, reactions and likes, according to a BuzzFeed analysis from November. Seventeen of the 20 top-performing false election stories were “overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton,” the analysis found. 

The president frequently uses the term “fake news” to delegitimize negative press from major news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as any polls that reflect poorly on his presidential performance.

Tech giants Google and Facebook have taken the lead in curbing the infiltration of fake news on social media and search results. Google slashed ad revenue for more than 340 fake news sites last year by cutting off access to GoogleAds; Facebook launched a feature in December that allows users to report posts sharing false information.

Last month, the companies announced the creation Crosscheck, a collaborative effort focused on quelling the spread of fake news during the French election cycle. The initiative provides journalists and the public with a platform to verify information they’ve read.

The Apple News app, which allows users to flag questionable content, has so far managed to steer clear of any significant fake news mishaps. But Cook says the tech industry must do more ― a lot more.

“All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news,” Cook said. “Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”