Apple’s Tim Cook brands ‘fake news’ a bigger threat than Russian-bought ads on social media

Apple chief executive Time Cook has declared that so-called ‘fake news’ on social media is a bigger threat than adverts bought by Russia to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Cook said in an interview with NBC that social media is being used manipulate people’s views through the broad spread of fake news stories.

“I don’t believe that the big issue are ads from foreign governments,” Cook said. “I believe that’s like 0.1% of the bigger issue. 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.”

The topic of fake news crops up at the same time Facebook, Twitter and Google are being probed by a US Congressional committee over facilitating the purchase of divisive and politically-charged adverts by Russian operatives on their platforms that were aimed at causing interference and misinformation to influence voters in the 2016 US elections which saw President Donald Trump emerge as the controversial victor.

But Cook sees the spread of news from less than reputable publications or the twisting of information to suite an agenda as a larger threat, though he did note that social networking platforms have learnt from the 2016 election.

However, he highlighted that it’s up to the leaders of the likes of Facebook and Twitter to make sure their platforms are being used as a force for good rather than services that allow for the spreading of fake news.

“I do think that technology itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be anything,” said Cook. “It’s up to the creator of the technology and the user of the technology to make it good.”

Related: How is Facebook tackling fake news? 

Is fake news worse than politically-charged adverts on social media? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook.