Apple's Tim Cook criticises social media practices, intensifying Facebook conflict

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook criticised polarization and misinformation on social media

Reuters January 29, 2021
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook PHOTO: REUTERS

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Thursday criticised polarization and misinformation on social media, intensifying a conflict between the iPhone maker and Facebook.

In remarks delivered at the Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference, Cook critiqued apps that he argued collect too much personal information and prioritise “conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of their high rates of engagement.”

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“At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement — the longer the better — and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible,” Cook said.

He did not name Facebook, but the two companies have been in a high-profile dispute. Apple is preparing to implement privacy notifications that many in the digital advertising industry believe will cause some users to decline to allow the use of ad-targeting tools.

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Facebook has accused Apple of anticompetitive conduct because Apple has a growing catalog of paid apps and its own digital advertising business. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said Apple has “every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work.”

Cook on Thursday criticised social media practices that he said undermine public trust in vaccines and encourage users to join extremist groups.

 “It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost — of polarization, of lost trust and, yes, of violence,” Cook said.

“A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe.”

In response to Cook’s remarks, Facebook said in a statement that it believes “Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses.”

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