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Apple CEO: ‘Fake news’ on social media is bigger issue than Russian ads

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Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday said the use of social media platforms to spread “fake news” is a bigger threat to the U.S. than foreign governments buying online advertisements.

The tech executive told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that social media is particularly dangerous because it allows false information to spread rapidly, potentially influencing millions of users and inflaming political divisions. 

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

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Cook’s comments came as the House Intelligence Committee released a trove of advertisements purchased on Facebook by accounts tied to Russian operatives. Those ads sought to play on some of the most divisive and sensitive political issues in the U.S., and some were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. 

The ads released on Wednesday were just a fraction of the 3,000 ads bought by accounts linked to a Russia disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election. 

Representatives from some of the country’s largest tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have been on Capitol Hill this week testifying to lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees as part of the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that the Russian government sought to disrupt the 2016 election and sway it in President Trump’s favor. That finding has prompted multiple congressional investigations, as well as a special counsel probe.

The role of social media platforms to spread disinformation and sow political and social divisions has emerged as a central concern of lawmakers investigating the matter. 

Tags Apple Donald Trump Facebook Google House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Senate Intelligence Committee Tim Cook Twitter

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