Tim Cook: Fake news on social media a far greater concern than Russian ads

As Facebook, Twitter and Google endured intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook decided to jump into the fray to call out the tech giants himself.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt set to broadcast later Wednesday, Cook said the issue of social media being used to manipulate people is a far greater threat than foreign-government ads during the U.S. elections.

At the time NBC News released a snippet of Cook’s remarks, general counsels for Facebook, Twitter and Google were in Washington for the second consecutive day to testify about whether their companies were complicit in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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“I don’t believe that the big issue are ads from foreign governments. I believe that’s like 0.1 percent of the issue,” Cook said. “The bigger issue is that some of these tools are used to divide people, to manipulate people, to get fake news to people in broad numbers, and so to influence their thinking. And, this to me, is the No. 1 through 10 issue.”

Cook is doubling down on his stance on fake news; in February, Cook told the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph that fake news was “killing people’s minds.”

“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,” said Cook. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way.”

Lawmakers grilled the representatives of the three Silicon Valley titans on Tuesday and Wednesday over what they perceived as complacency over Russian interference in the 2016 election on their platforms. For Facebook in particular, the company reported before the Senate hearings that inflammatory Russian ads were seen by more than 126 million Americans before the election.

“I went home last night with profound disappointment,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. “I asked specific questions, I got vague answers. And that just won’t do. You have a huge problem on your hands. And the U.S. is going to be the first of the countries to bring it to your attention, and other countries are going to follow I’m sure. Because you bear this responsibility.”

Cook in his interview spoke of other issues with Holt, including the need for tax reform.

“This isn’t good for the U.S. There’s no tax receipts there,” Cook said. “In my view, it should have been fixed years ago. But let’s get it done now.”

Cook and Apple are preparing for a busy week ahead, with the company set to release fourth-quarter earnings Thursday and the public release of the deluxe iPhone X in Apple Stores at 8 a.m. on Friday.

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook greets guests at the grand opening of Apple’s Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue on Oct. 20, 2017 in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


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  • omegatalon

    The problem is that people go to Facebook to learn about what is happening in the world because they don’t trust the mainstream media especially when CNN and MSNBC get caught colluding with the Democratic National Committee.