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Apple CEO Tim Cook says fake news is ‘killing people’s minds’ and tech needs to launch a counterattack

“There has to be a massive campaign.”

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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.

"There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic," Cook said.

While most of the discussion around fake news has centered on fabricated stories and headlines that surface on websites and spread like wildfire through Facebook, earlier this month it was Trump’s own not-official spokesperson Kellyanne Conway who shared news of a “Bowling Green massacre” that never happened.

Conway said the made-up event was orchestrated by two Iraqi refugees, as she attempted to defend Trump’s immigration and refugee travel ban on individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Even though Conway’s false narrative was quickly debunked on Twitter, a recent poll from Public Policy Polling showed that 23 percent of Americans believed the made-up story enough to think it justified Trump’s travel ban. Twenty percent were unsure if the fake news was justification enough for the immigration executive order.

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.

Remember Pizzagate? It was a completely false story that went viral on Facebook late last year that linked Hillary Clinton to a child sex ring run out of pizzeria in Washington D.C. Another poll by PPP at that time showed nearly half of Trump voters thought Pizzagate was true, or at least could be true.

“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.

Or in the case of Kellyanne Conway, straight-up spouting falsehoods on national news.

Much of the fake news controversy has focused on Facebook, where in recent months fabricated stories have become wildly popular. In January, the social media giant rolled out new filtering tools in Germany for users to flag stories that are potentially fake to be reviewed by fact-checkers.

But Cook called for even wider action. “Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven't figured out what to do,” he said. "We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will.”

Apple’s Eddy Cue, senior vice president of internet software and services, will be joining Recode’s Peter Kafka at the Code Media Conference tomorrow, where he’ll be asked more about Apple’s position on fake news, especially as the company moves to start making its own TV and movies.

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