Cook calls for campaigning against false news

What to do about viral

What to do about viral

Apple's CEO Tim Cook wants the tech industry to take action against "fake news" that is polluting the web.

"There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every population group," Cook said in a rare interview.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cook also said, "We all, the technology companies, need to develop some tools that help reduce the amount of fake news."

Other leading CEOs of technology companies, like Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken about the problem in recent months. But Cook's comments were much more open.

According to the Telegraph, he said fictional stories and hoaxes "kill people's minds".

And he called the "fake news" plague "a big problem in many parts of the world."

The term "fake news" was originally coined to describe online stories that are intended to mislead the reader. These stories are often shared on Facebook and other social networks to generate profits for the creators. In other cases, the stories are essentially political propaganda.

Such stories received widespread attention before and after the American election. Fictional stories with titles like "Pope Francis shakes the world, supports Donald Trump as president" have won millions of clicks.

It can be very difficult for web surfers to tell the difference between legitimate news sources and fakes.

This is where companies like Apple come in.

In the Telegraph interview – part of a multi-day trip to Europe – Cook said: "Too many of us are in the complaints category and haven't figured out what to do yet."

He called for both technological and intellectual solutions.

"We need the modern version of a public announcement campaign. It can be carried out quickly when there is a will," Cook told the newspaper.

What he described is music for advocates of media literacy.

"It's almost like a new course is needed for the modern child, the digital child," said Cook.

Some schools have sporadic efforts to teach media literacy, with a focus on digital skills, but this 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 comments on Cook's interview.

Apple's CEO also suggested that tech companies could help stamp out fake stories.

Apple's own Apple News app is considered a relatively reliable place to find information.

The company "reviews publishers who join Apple News," BuzzFeed noted in December last year.

And the app has a "report-a-concern function" that allows users to report fake messages or hate speech.

Facebook has recently started working with fact checkers to test "warning signs" that appear when users share fictional stories.

Cook was optimistic in the newspaper interview 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