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article imageTim Cook attacks social media for helping to 'divide people'

By James Walker     Nov 3, 2017 in Technology
Apple CEO Tim Cook has shared his opinions on the problems of fake news, government-sponsored ads and manipulation on social media. He said he's critical of how platforms are used to divide and influence people because of the lack of controls provided.
Ads are "0.1%" of the issue
Cook discussed the spread of fake news and controversial advertisements during an interview on NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night. As reported by The Verge, Cook criticised how some platforms are allowing users to manipulate other people and influence the way they think.
He dismissed the impact of ads from foreign governments, describing that problem as "0.1% of the issue." His comments came on the same day the House Intelligence Committee released some of the 3,000 Facebook ads used to provoke division in the U.S. by Russian-backed actors.
"I don't believe that the big issue are ads from foreign governments. I believe that's like 0.1% of the bigger issue," Cook reportedly said. "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. This, to me, is the No. 1 through 10 issue."
Learning to respond
Cook also accused social media companies of "learning along the way a lot." Companies such as Facebook and Twitter have been repeatedly criticised for not doing enough to safeguard their users and protect different values.
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The platforms have attracted controversy for not spotting the Russian-linked ads sooner. They've also come under fire for the way they've handled their investigations after identifying the suspect accounts.
In hearings this week about Russia's use of social media during the U.S. election, lawmakers repeatedly criticised the three social media companies testifying in the case. Facebook, Twitter and Google all sent representatives to the hearings, a decision which "disappointed" some senators who'd expected CEOs to attend. One lawmaker told the assembled firms "I don’t think you get it," explaining the proceedings refer to a "cataclysmic change" in cyber warfare.
Cook also used the interview to discuss some of Apple's business policies. Elaborating on the company's approach to customer safety, Cook insisted Apple has a "very pro-privacy view." Apple's found itself at the centre of a privacy debate in recent months over concerns about its new Face ID feature and the firm's increased use of differential privacy.
Speaking during the interview, Cook insisted "Apple doesn't have" your facial recognition data. He reassured users that all biometric information is confined to your device and cannot be accessed by the company. Face ID's now being used by its first consumers as the iPhone X launched today in Apple Stores worldwide.
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