News & Politics

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Fake News is 'Killing People's Minds'

Image via Shutterstock, Apple CEO Tim Cook holds up an iPhone.

The head of Apple, Tim Cook, is saying fake news is “killing people’s minds,” and the tech industry must do something to stop it.

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. It’s killing people’s minds, in a way.

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.

Cook called on information companies to create messaging campaigns to counter fake news. He also said governments need to take the lead with their own campaigns.

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

It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public. There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic… It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid.

In some ways kids will be the easiest to educate. At least before a certain age, they are very much in listen and understand [mode], and they then push their parents to act. 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?

Concern about fake news came to the fore of public discourse after Donald Trump won the presidency, but a study by Stanford and New York University showed that it didn’t help Trump and that “the impact of fake news on the election appears to have been greatly exaggerated.”

Regardless, calls for cracking down on “fake news” have been gaining steam, especially among liberals who are also calling for a “resistance” movement against the Trump administration. They say they have a plan to “battle against Trump’s authoritarian impulses and serial shredding of our democratic norms” and “against the various ways in which Trump will work with Republicans to advance a more conventional GOP agenda.”

Part of that effort is to crack down on fake news and promote information that will “save the civil society.” Or so say the progressives. Unfortunately, the Left is just as guilty of spreading fake news as the Right, a point made by Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic.

If progressives are looking to be shocked, terrified, or incensed, they have plenty of options. Yet in the past two weeks, many have turned to a different avenue: They have shared ‘fake news,’ online stories that look like real journalism but are full of fables and falsehoods.

So when Cook calls for cracking down on fake news, one wonders how he plans to do that exactly. Will an “information campaign” be enough? Who will be spreading the information? What tools will be given to spot “fake news”? Whose perspective will be considered “true” — those on the Right or the Left? Who will become our information overlords, speaking from the hallowed halls of the Ministry of Truth?

Anyone who has worked in journalism knows that there’s really no such thing as pure objectivity, only fairness based on a common value for truth. Every journalist enters the fray with his or her own presuppositions and biases that color his or her reporting. The delusion journalism has been under since the rise of the progressive era has been this notion that there is some sort of pure scientific objectivity that can be achieved. But there isn’t, especially when the foundation for journalistic objectivity has been rejected by our “progressive” culture — the very notion of objective truth.

Given the loss of that essential element when it comes to any form of fairness or “objectivity” in our highly subjective society, Cook’s information campaign that involves indoctrination of our children is a little frightening. It sounds like another means of spreading propaganda rather than righting the ship of our public discourse.

Not to mention, Apple hasn’t always been exactly “objective” when it comes to politics. In June, the company refused to support the Republican convention, reportedly because of comments Trump made about women, immigrants, and minorities. Apple had backed Republican and Democratic conventions in the past. Cook was also a big fundraiser for Clinton, though he also contributed to Paul Ryan.

To Cook’s credit, however, he did issue a memo to his employees after the presidential election, calling for unity: “the only way to move forward is to move forward together.” The election was a hard loss for the tech industry, which favored Clinton over Trump with donations: Trump received $117,000 compared with $3.3 million to Clinton.

No doubt, highlighting information that opposes Trump will be a temptation to those Cook is now asking to root out fake news. As for the government beginning its own information campaign against fake news, Sean Spicer and Trump already seem to be on it as they have repeatedly called out some news organizations for being fake news.

While it would be ideal for the government to be the leader of truth in reporting, this has historically simply not been the case. The media are the watchdogs precisely because government, which is so powerful, tends toward corruption and must be held in check. Therefore, any “truth in reporting” campaigns should certainly come from the private sector and preferably among journalists themselves.

But as I stated above, if you don’t believe there is any objective truth to begin with, this might be a difficult endeavor, as one subjective viewpoint will merely rail against another. Given this, it’s probably best for the American people to work it out among themselves, and hopefully as they do, they’ll realize that an actual objective worldview of truth is needed. If they don’t, “truth” will ultimately be defined by the most powerful force anyway — whether that’s the tech industry, the media, or the government.

In the meantime, any massive campaign to indoctrinate our children, much as the environmentalist movement has done, will only make things worse. In such a scenario, truth will not be saved, but sacrificed in the name of good intentions.