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Fake news 'killing people's minds', says Apple boss

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook

Fake news is "killing people's minds" according to Apple boss Tim Cook, who is urging the Government to launch a public information campaign to counteract the problem.

Mr Cook called for a an awareness campaign similar to those which alerted people to health epidemics such as AIDS in the 1980s and environmental issues including the ozone layer in the 1990s.

The CEO of the world's largest company said fake news "is a big problem in a lot of the world" following recent concerns about the role of fabricated news stories widely shared during the US Presidential election race and the EU referendum campaign.

"It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public," said Mr Cook. "There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic.

"We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will."

He told The Daily Telegraph that in the "clickbait" era, the rise of fake news was being driven by companies determined to get readers at any cost, with truth being the first casualty.

"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," he said.

"It's killing people's minds in a way."

Mr Cooke said that companies including Apple had to step up and do more to try and counteract the problem.

"All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news.

"We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press, but we must also help the reader. Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven't figured out what to do."

And he said schools had to do more to educate children on how to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable news sources.

"It's almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid."

But he said in some ways, children should be "the easiest to educate" and they could then share their increased awareness with their parents.

"We saw this with environmental issues: kids learning at school and coming home and saying, 'Why do you have this plastic bottle? Why are you throwing it away?' "

Mr Cook believes the war on fake news can be won in the long-term, and that people's appetite for in-depth, investigative journalism remains stronger than the apparent public hunger for clickbait.

"The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, non-sensational, deep news outlets will win.

"The [rise of fake news] is a short-term thing - I don't believe that people want that at the end of the day."

Alabama- born Mr Cook met with President Donald Trump in December as part of a round-table discussion with other technology and social media giants, including Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Mr Trump has repeatedly accused the mainstream media, including well respected publications such as the New York Times, of peddling "fake news".

Some believe this is fuelling a culture where any story which is critical of an individual or organisation can simply be dismissed as "fake news" even when it is from a reliable and well researched source - making it all the more vital that people are educated to be able to spot the difference.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has launched a Government enquiry into fake news chaired by Damian Collins MP.

Launching the enquiry, Mr Collins said: "The growing phenomenon of fake news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general.

"Just as major tech companies have accepted they have a social responsibility to combat piracy online and the illegal sharing of content, they also need to help address the spreading of fake news on social media platforms.

"Consumers should also be given new tools to help them assess the origin and likely veracity of news stories they read online."

Mr Collins said a select committee will investigate the sources of "fake news", what motivates people to spread it, and how it has been used around elections and other important political debates.

The public is invited to submit their views to the committee before 3 March .

Topics:  apple editors picks fake news tim cook



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