Apple vows to take on fake news, but it doesn’t know how to just yet
They say fear is the mind-killer but, for Apple CEO Tim Cook, it’s fake news that’s “killing people’s minds”. Cook sees the proliferation of fake news and “alternative facts” as a warning sign on the mental health of society, and is calling on the tech industry to help solve it.
“All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news,” Cook said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic.”
Fake news really became an issue during the Trump election campaign. Here many unreliable news outlets used the power of social media’s velocity algorithms and incredibly clicky headlines to spread fake news stories. Pizzagate was one of the more prolific stories that spread – a news story that claimed Hillary Clinton was caught up in a child sex ring run out of a pizzeria in Washington DC.
Since then, fake news has only become more prevalent, with the Trump administration fabricating facts to further their own agenda. It may have started off with White House press secretary Sean Spicer denying the truth over inauguration numbers, but it’s culminated in Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway referring to a fake “Bowling Green massacre” as a means to justify the US travel ban.
Conway’s falsified event was quickly debunked but, according to a poll from Public Policy Polling, 23% of Americans believed the made-up story.
“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.
“Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do. We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will.”
Facebook is one of the few tech companies to have already begun its fight back against fake news, rolling out verification tools in Germany to combat fake stories. Any story flagged as fake by a user is then verified by a team of fact-checkers before rolling out to the network as a whole. What Tim Cook is suggesting seems to be a collective effort that publicly denounces fake news stories while promoting real ones.
It’s unclear exactly what action Apple will take on the matter, but it’s likely we’ll see better filtering from Apple News and Siri search results.