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On Capitol Hill yesterday, Facebook, Twitter, and Google continued to face tough questions from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee over their roles in the Russian election interference. It’s a serious subject, but Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks that when it comes to social media, there are worse problems.
Speaking to NBC News anchor Lester Holt, Cook said the way these companies are able to divide and manipulate people, as well as the influencing effect of fake news, are much bigger issues than Russian ads.
“I don’t believe the big issue are ads from foreign governments. I believe that’s like .1 percent of the issue,” Cook says. “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 so as to influence their thinking. This to me is the No. 1 through 10 issue.”
According to documents obtained earlier this week, Russia’s targeted campaign messages reached 126 million Facebook users. They also posted more than 131,000 tweets and 1000 YouTube videos.
Speaking about the congressional hearings, Cook said that social media companies have “learned along the way a lot,” and that “we'll probably learn more in those hearings as to the particulars.”
“But I do think that technology itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be anything. It’s up to the creator of the technology and the user of the technology to make it good.”
Moving away from social media, Cook bemoaned the current state of US corporate tax rates.
“The biggest issue for corporations in this country is if you earn money outside the United States, which most companies increasingly will,” Cook said. “It’s taxed in those countries, by the way, the only way you can bring it into the U.S. and invest, is if you pay 40 percent, for us.”
“This is kind of a crazy thing to do,” he added. “So what do people do? They don’t bring it to the United States. It’s not good for investment in the U.S. And so this needs to be fixed. In my view, it should have been fixed years ago. But let’s get it done now.”
Cook has long been forced to defend Apple’s decision to store around $261 billion in overseas tax havens such as Ireland, but unless things change, it looks as if the money won't be coming back to the US. Republicans have, however, been working on a new tax bill that President Trump says will bring “massive tax cuts.”