Apple CEO Tim Cook is the latest figure to attack the “fake news” boogeyman. Cook is calling for technological solutions to the much hyped online problem.
Although the election is over, the problem of fake news isn’t. Apple CEO Tim Cook said it’s time to do something about 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 on Friday.
“Fake news” has become one of the more annoying buzz phrases in recent years. It is one of those terms like “establishment” that has as many definitions as it does people using it in political speeches or commentary. In many cases it has become—like accusations of racism—little more than a means of dismissing inconvenient information and shutting down an argument. There are actual fake news stories being spread but the term is now applied by some to anything they prefer not to believe.
Tim Cook says that the proliferation of fake news is “killing people’s minds.”
Differentiating between fact-checked news and stories that are written to deceive has proven difficult for online readers.
Cook is wrong that fake news is killing minds. He has the cause and effect reversed. Minds that have abandoned critical thinking and skepticism and have chosen to believe and spread stories that affirm their biases–without regard for whether the stories are true—are to blame for the proliferation of false information on social media. Bogus information is finding fertile ground in minds that are already dead. Hysteria over fake news is damaging minds more than the fake news itself.
I’m skeptical that there will be a technological solution to any of this. It’s a cultural problem.
When you’re in the tech businesses though, you see every problem as a tech problem.
“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 in the interview.
He is right about that. Clicks have become more important than truth because clicks are what make money. This is no different than traditional media though. Ratings are what makes money on television and radio. Circulation is key for print media. The only solution is for people to stop rewarding media sources who don’t tell the truth. That’s a tall order when most people are only looking for confirmation of their preconceptions.