Apple CEO Cook Warns of Social Media Perils in University Speech

  • Cook also jokes about students hacking president’s Twitter
  • Social media can be a place where ‘basic rules are suspended’

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook speaks about the perils of social media during an address at MIT's graduation ceremonies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Source: Bloomberg)

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook warned Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates that technology -- and social media in particular -- can divide society even as it’s intended to bring people together.

“The internet has enabled so much and empowered so many,” Cook said Friday in an address at MIT’s graduation ceremonies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “But it can also be a place where basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive.”

Apple, which makes most of its money from selling hardware such as the iPhone, has taken only tentative steps into social media products. In 2010, it introduced a service called Ping, which was tied to iTunes, where it sells music, films and TV shows. Ping let users share their music preferences with contacts, but was shuttered in 2012.

Social media websites run by Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. became the focus of scrutiny during the U.S. presidential election, where the promulgation of news stories whose veracity was questionable was seen by many pundits as having played a role in steering votes toward now-President Donald Trump. Twitter also has stepped up efforts against harassment on its service, banning some for abusive speech against others.

Cook joked in his speech that students at MIT, which is reputed for its computer science program, may have hacked Trump’s Twitter account.

“I can tell college students are behind it because most of the tweets happen at 3 a.m.,” he said.

Cook uses Twitter to promote Apple products and address broader social and political themes. Last week he criticized Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Earlier this week, he posted pictures from Apple’s annual developer conference in San Jose, California.

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