Apple CEO Wants Schools to Help Fix the World’s Fake News Problem

by Lauren C. Williams –

In Telegraph interview, Tim Cook said battling fake news needs to be “ingrained in the schools” because “it’s killing people’s minds.”

For Apple CEO Tim Cook, fake news isn’t just a social media phenomenon, it’s a societal problem that needs to be addressed in every corner of our culture, starting with the education system.

“It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public,” Cook told the UK’s Telegraph in an exclusive interview. “There has to be a massive campaign.”

The rise of fake news is a “short-term thing” that people don’t want, Cook said, emphasizing that a problem which is “killing people’s minds” can only be solved by educating children who will then push their parents to act.

“It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid,” he said. “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?”

Cook outlined a vision where private industries—particularly tech—and government collaborate and tackle fake news as a global problem. His comments come at a time when tech companies, including his own, are grappling with how to address public concerns of misinformation spreading on their platforms, without trampling on ideals of free speech and press.

Facebook has been at the center of the discussion after the company fired its human news editors that curated content on the platform’s trending topics section last year. The move to algorithm-only curation triggered an immediate change in what kinds of stories floated to the top of users’ feeds, allowing things like deliberate hoaxes and salacious headlines to spread, unchecked, as fact.

Following months of public discussion and criticism, the social network rolled out several initiatives to help curb the prevalence of fake news on the site, including third-party verification of news sources and tweaks to how its algorithm selects trending topics.

But as Cook mentioned in his Telegraph interview, the problem of fake news affects everyone.

“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.

That becomes especially important as tech companies continue to move into media aggregation and creation. Apple’s own news app, for example, delivers content from across the web based on a user’s interests, their own algorithm…and human news curators.

As a result, tech companies now have an invested interest in stopping the spread of fake news and amplifying the work of media outlets with a track-record of thorough reporting.

“All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news,” Cook told the Telegraph. “The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, non-sensational, deep news outlets will win.”

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress