Tim Cook believes tech companies must solve "fake news" problem

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by macmesser, Feb 20, 2017.

  1. macmesser macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    http://www.macworld.com/article/316... Macworld 2017-02-20&utm_term=mw_bestof_html

    Tim Cook apparently believes tech companies have an obligation to filter fake news in order to preserve the utility of the internet as a news medium. By technologically squeezing fake news, he thinks consumers will be protected. In a manner reminiscent of how governments promise all good things, he proposes to do this in a way that will not impinge on either free speech or free access to information, also (and of course) without elaborating how. This seems misguided to me, if well intentioned, as the very notion is oxymoronic. Moreover, notwithstanding the utopian promise of a technologic fix for "fake news", this would be a form of censorship which even if theoretically possible (I don't think so) would advantage the very worst offenders by blocking vital meta-information from consumers. A far better and less invasive approach would be to develop voluntary ethical standards which would emphasize that some basis in truth must exist. One would then campaign to educate content creators in what such a basis might be and consumers in how to recognize when content is created under an ethical standard. This could be accomplished with impartiality and to a high degree of efficacy using the free and open source software community model of voluntarism. It seems to me that many smart people are probably also ethical and that a good number of them might appreciate the wisdom contained in the statement, attributed to historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
  2. ZapNZs macrumors 68020


    Jan 23, 2017
    I think tech companies have a responsibility NOT to intervene, and NOT to control content. I believe that the responsibility of "filtering" falls upon an individual's common sense to not blindly accept what any one source claims. Critical thinking entails being able to take a look at something, consider the known facts, examine the credibility of the outlet, and weigh them against the claims. Critical thinking is needed for work, school, and life in-general. The most important tool here is the brain...not silicon. Siri can't replace common sense.

    Heck, even defining "fake news" could be a problem. There is totally fabricated, partially fabricated, unintentionally inaccurate, mostly true, and tailored in its context to a certain ideological bias (often to feed a Reader seeking confirmation bias.) So now we need a cutoff point. And what about adds that are designed to look like news stories? Are these fake news? And what about articles that do a poor job differentiating between their relaying and editorial opinionated narratives? For that matter, who is going to make the decision regarding what is being "diminished"?

    A reputation service system that may warn but not block, like Web of Trust, that is designed by Apple, could potentially be of some benefit. However, in regards to news, confirmation bias will affect how people rate a particular site or story, again coming back to the importance of being a critical reader.

    I also think there are bigger issues going on that relate more directly to the actual products/services tech companies offer. One example is the trend of using the internet/smartphones/an OS/software to scam Seniors. This is a huge issue, rarely given the attention it deserves, and is often done using the products and services tech companies directly offer. Another could be the protection of PII - better EULAs that are easier for the average person to understand, and more options to opt-out of 'compulsory information sharing' is something tech companies could perhaps work on?
  3. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    I agree that the responsibility of good tech companies is to keep their filters off of content. Your point that critical thinking is all important is correct. Without it, the "news" stream becomes an opinion or propaganda stream. Unless a raw news stream is available, the necessary conditions for critical thinking will not obtain. For one thing, we will not be able to "examine the credibility of the outlet" if it's output is blocked, or even worse, partially blocked. Even if an outlet is correctly labeled a source of only disinformation and completely blocked, we would be denied the "big picture" of all who are trying to add to the "news sphere" and therefore be denied data necessary to infer what factions are out there trying to influence perceptions and what (possibly false) narratives they are employing. This is what I meant by meta-information. Even the lies and who tells them are of value in forming an accurate understanding, albeit not on a factual level. (I am trying to decide whether this is a level higher or lower than the factual.)

    There would indeed be an arbitrary and possibly even intentional judgement factor at play. Articles in a processed feed would be one step further removed from reality. The chain of responsibility for errors would be one step longer and this does not seem to be accompanied by any positive effect that is not the result of a more or less even tradeoff. There is increased probability of human and/or factual error and decreased probability of locating the source, which would be the first step in error correction for the "beneficiary" of such a system. I see intervention as an overall clear negative.

    This is like what I was envisioning. There would no doubt be multiple putatively honest services, each with unintentional bias, and one would expect all rational perspectives to be reflected in the array of choices. So bias could be averaged out. One would expect content to be flagged with varying and often multiple badges. Of course, some consumers would be sure to seek out completely unbadged content, which would be healthy.

    There are bigger fish to fry. Perhaps fake news is a conspiracy theory? I agree with your other points although I can't say I've seen evidence of seniors being disproportionately targeted. This does make sense since seniors have not grown up with the current level of technology and are often behind the curve as a result. To me it looks like the digital world is rife with ruthless predators seeking meals in all quarters.
  4. Septembersrain Contributor


    Dec 14, 2013
    No. They need to focus on their technology. They aren't the great firewall and we don't need their censorship. Thanks.
  5. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    I completely agree.
  6. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Tech companies have done their bit: we have hyperlinks, so sources can be cited.
    Fake news echo-chambers on social networks are the price you pay for freedom of speech on the internet.

    If there is a problem, it is with the traditional media. They were never immune to fake news or lazy reporting anyway, but now they are so desperate to survive in the internet age that they resort to uncritically re-reporting what happens on the wider internet as if it had some authority.

    In the good old days, a politician who wanted to get on TV and front pages had to do an interview, or stand up at a press conference and face (or publicly avoid) questions. Now, they just tweet something controversial and the journalists fall over themselves to make it headline news.

    Or, one adolescent posts something offensive or (implausibly) threatening about a celebrity and automatically gets the 140 characters of fame that they've been dreaming of. Seriously: if you're famous and open a social media account, you're effectively choosing to hear what drunk people have been saying about you and your predecessor in pubs ever since the invention of beer. The media has forgotten rule one of the internet: never feed the trolls.

    The other solution is for the education system to try encouraging critical thinking: Who's writing this? Who is paying them? What evidence are they citing? What if they're wrong?

    - not easy, but the current trend (encouraged by not-too-bright career politicians on both sides of the spectrum, neither of whom want the voters applying too much thought to their simplistic narratives) is to concentrate on cramming useless facts that are only good for ticking boxes on multi-choice tests, rather than actually stopping and thinking.
  7. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    This is a tremendous problem with education, due in large part to heavy oversight by remote authority. IMO the problems with education, news, and information verification in general are related. There may be citable "primary" sources, but who collects and curates them and is it really possible to do so impartially?
  8. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    A big problem is the quest for pseudo-accurate grading of attainment (which very accurately and reproducibly measures how good your exam technique is, but is only weakly correlated with actual real-world abilities and is a massive distraction from actual education). Assessment of critical skills (even in what should be an objective subject like Math) is much harder, more expensive and lacks the bogus precision of testing factual recall. Governments, parents, employers, colleges and schools are jointly responsible for this.

    Absolutely true, but compared to the current status quo, even a link to Wikipedia (and we all know the limitations of that) would be progress. "How to judge the reliability of a Wikipedia article" would be a good module in the critical thinking course: the good thing about Wikipedia is that, if you care to look, the history, discussion and controversies behind the article are there for you. In a traditional encyclopaedia or reference book, all that would be secret.

    You're never going to cure the "people believe what they want to believe" problem, but at the moment we're not even offered the tools to dig deeper.
  9. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    Maybe traditional media outlets are fighting the wrong battle in what amounts to asymmetric warfare in their competition with alternative media. They can't be as nimble nor as ubiquitous and connected, so the natural tendency is, as you point out, to try to beat them to the punch and avoid being scooped. Perhaps they should deploy their more substantial resources to investigate the various threads deeply. Instead of breaking things first they could specialize in accurate, in depth reportage. I doubt that they would, since their self assumed mission does not seem to be to inform the public but rather to move the ball of public opinion to one or the other end of the field.
  10. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    If you look at the last US elections, 99% of Americans will agree that 50% of all Americans have no ethical standards whatsoever and will spread lies (aka fake news) without hesitation. They just disagree about _which_ 50% they are talking about. So anything voluntarily isn't going to work.
  11. macmesser, Feb 25, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017

    macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    That's a good point. I pretty much agree. It seems like social darwinism has invaded the political conversation and now controls it. Argumentation (as in political debate) is supposed to be a cooperative effort between two differing viewpoints with the shared goal of arriving at truth. It is a constructive effort rather than a 0-sum game and assumes that there is some basis for good will between the participants. We are beyond that point in the here and now. Politics would be more honestly conducted with clubs rather than words. Some are now saying that with all the fake news we are in a post-truth environment. I think we are actually in a post-political phase as well.

    Maybe people will not voluntarily comply with standards meant to mitigate fake news but compliance, or lack thereof, can be flagged for potential consumers to see.
  12. Naaaaak, Nov 1, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 1, 2018

    Naaaaak macrumors 6502

    Mar 26, 2010
    Apple and Tim Cook are thoroughly discredited as having any idea what fake news is, given the amount of fake news pushed through the Apple News app:
    • Features click-bait headlines which do no informing.
    • Pushes rabid headlines worded as fact when the content is opinion, particularly anti-Trump headlines.
    • Reliance / prominence of generally non-credible sources like CNN, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vice, and Vox for its “factory defaults”.
    • Continues to use and feature sources which sell propaganda and provably-wrong “news”. For example, there has been no penalty to sources who pushed “Trump/Russia” word association propaganda for 11 months, no penalty to sources like NYT which pushed highly oversampled polls during the election purporting “Hillary has an 80%+ chance of winning” days before voting, no penalty to Buzzfeed for publishing a sensational and now-discredited “dossier”.
    • Does not feature the same level of prominence for retractions as the original headlines. Leaves people misinformed just like other fake news purveyors.
    Apple News feeds the hysteria caused by fake news and is one of the first things I uninstall on a wiped device. It’s a worthless aggregator of fake news.

    There you go Timmy. 5 things you could do to combat fake news and I guarantee your political agenda will stop you from doing them.
  13. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    Doesn't Apple already filter the new. I know in their News app. They push feeds from news sources I don't trust and topics I have zero interest in at the top of the app.

    You have to scroll way down until they start feeding you news from the sources you specifically listed for your channels.
  14. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    I am unfamiliar with Apple News app but, if true, this does not surprise me and I'll take your word for it. I do not follow politics closely now as I think it is for the most part a bogus and insulting exercise conducted among elites who are themselves fairly clueless.
    --- Post Merged, Nov 3, 2017 ---
    I have not found a main stream outlet or service that I can trust. Most "news" seems to be manipulative in what it focuses on as well as its content.
  15. Dubdrifter, Nov 29, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 1, 2018

    Dubdrifter macrumors regular


    Jan 30, 2015
    Meanwhile, back to the point ….. Agree with many of the good points mentioned.

    People know Governments and Big Business and the Media have peddled more fake news, propaganda and fake advertising than almost anyone in history.

    Just when the general public get the opportunity, through the Internet to bypass this 'bull' and want to replace it with their own 'bull' …... the liberal media elite 'go ape' and suddenly don't like it and decide the masses shouldn't have it, because they are irresponsible and it needs to be censored ….. etc.

    As mentioned, extremes of opinion and fakery abound ….. but tech companies are the last people who should be censoring (see my new thread regarding censorship + astronomy up this page).

    Youtube for example monetises popular content which pushes people to extremes, promotes shock culture, opinion, celebrity scandal etc …. and thus actively encourages the generation of 'fake' news.

    Facebook already censors some political/personal posts between friends …. surprising how innocuous some of this content is.

    Big business already thinks it should have the right to poke it's nose into employees personal Facebook pages, and censor and sack anyone it thinks might damage the 'precious' company image …. remember the girl who flipped the 'bird' at the President's motorcade? She got sacked for posting the jounalist's pic on her Facebook page.

    What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas …. what happens on Facebook is nothing to do with Big Business/Politicians/or Media ….. it's for sharing with the Facebook community within those spaces.
    Taking the debate out of those spaces is a different matter, but isn't often the fault of the original poster who is writing within a certain environment, tailored to that audience.

    Who goes into a comedy club and objects to the mickey being taken out of them by comedians within those walls?. Walk out the club and you have reason to complain.

    The Internet is Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech for the masses. If you don't like extreme opinions or 'fake' news on the Internet, confront it where you see it with your 'truth' wherever you see it on websites and forums …. and correct that opinion …. however popular it has become.

    Big Business has barged onto the Internet late in the game, and funded by you know who, is coseying up to shadow governments to form a 'pact with the devil' to control, monitor and censor this precious free speech platform. DON'T LET THEM DO THIS, LOSE THIS BATTLE AND THE FILM 'Brazil' WILL BE YOUR REALITY!

    It's funny, when the liberal media posse lose elections (eg:Brexit/Trump) suddenly democracy flies out the window and they want another vote until they get the result THEY want, and the old 'repressive' regime is back in place.

    Free speech is questioned and 'fake' news/Russians are the reason ….. not the corrupt regime they have been propping up over the last 40 years that has marginalised the indigenous population and created such widespread social inequality.

    But Tim Cook being a bit remote from that reality, in his rather priveleged position, probably won't have a clue what we're talking about.

    Begs the question when it comes to him discussing 'censoring fake news'. How 1984 is Apple? …. ask the people who work there ….anyone on here got an opinion? …. if you need to create a 'fake' account to post it here …. that answers my question! :D
  16. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    I pretty much agree with you. I don't see either side of the left-right paradigm as an exclusive source of garbage. The online environment is sown with garbage.
  17. travelsheep macrumors 6502


    May 30, 2013
    so basically make news thinner and remove the ports
  18. Phonephreak macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2017
    Here and there
    Ahhh. No. Imagine a world where Apple gets to decide what news you need to hear. News apples way.
  19. CrystalQuest76 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 14, 2015
    West Cost A Lot
    It would be great if technology companies could figure out how to stop the proliferation of 'fake news'. However, i have enjoyed many satire news sites and articles that have made a moderate effort to imitate the real thing. At the same time, there have been such bizarre real events that have been reported that algorithms would tag as fake.
    As a non-political example: "Man eats the face off of a man."
  20. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    It would be great if we could eliminate so called "fake news." I don't really think tech companies can do it, but they may be able to come up with a creative solution. For example, some kind of "level of safety" function which would assign a safety value to all news items. User would select her own level and have the ability to use certain keywords of interest as flags which would exempt items from being filtered. Anything below the user-selected level would be filtered out and user could view unfiltered feed.

    How would "level of safety" be assigned? Maybe AI, based on number of similar items or their negations. Some sort of user polling could be added. User would be presented verification tools with items for a quick check.

    In the end, there is no getting around the fact that the more local the news (and everything else, for that matter), the more likely we will be able to recognize veracity and either personally verify or verify through a trusted circle. Once scope exceeds that of an organic community it's worse than a crap shoot, since it's only common sense to assume that what can be gamed will be gamed.
  21. TheTruth101 Suspended

    Mar 15, 2017
    Well....! How are you going to filter "fake news"? You do not need a certification to use the internet. Now every clown has "freedom of speech" and they will say what people want to hear to get more views.

    That is the problem with social media and the internet in general. You wanted a world where everyone is free, well, here you got?

    Why Tim Cook does not regulate the use of iPhones when people are driving? people are dying.

    Why Tim Cook does not do anything regarding social media addiction? Ohhh...
  22. Phil in ocala Suspended

    Phil in ocala

    Jul 14, 2016
  23. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2012
    Long Island, NY USA
    I agree that the philosophy should not be one of protectionism. Companies should never censor but rather provide tools that can be used by those who find them helpful and that should be the basis of constructive competition.
  24. 25ghosts macrumors 6502

    Jan 31, 2008
    No one should rule over which news is posted. Aside from the ones posting and consuming it.

    On that note, folks should start asking themselves whether their lives are better after reading the news. Or Worse.
    One used to have to experience something really sad or stupid to enter a state of depression.

    Today, one just needs to watch CNN or read the news. Fake or not, who cares - its ridiculous. People willingly spend hours of their day consuming news of events of others' - instead of living their own life. I wonder if anyone would care watching an hour of news if they knew they had but 24 left to live !

    Once folks start living their own lives and seize consuming lives and news of others' - so much of it that the media can't deliver and thus has to invent and create fake content, the sooner everything will change all by itself. The media is not dictating us, we are dictating the media by greedily wanting more and more and more...

    Tims doesn't need to filter fake news. He needs to invent apps that are more interesting than the news and folks will automatically consume those rather than the news :) Et Voila !
  25. AmazingRobie macrumors 6502


    Jun 10, 2009
    How about this douche solves the problem of when playing something in the music app like an audiobook theres no way to pick up or bookmark where you left off. Its 2017 about to be 2018 and all this guy has ever worried about is how he can solves a bunch of non Apple related problems. Good riddance to you Mr. Cook, good riddance to you sir...

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