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By Alyssa Newcomb
Technology companies must take a moral stand against hate speech, said Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday during a speech at the Anti-Defamation League.
“I sometimes say that I worry less about computers that think like people and more about people that think like computers, without values or compassion, without concern for consequences,” Cook said, as as he accepted the Anti-Defamation League’s first-ever “Courage Against Hate” award on Monday night, an honor that will be given each year to a business leader who champions equality.
The Apple CEO had a message for anyone trying to push hate, division or violence: “You have no place on our platforms. You have no home,” he said.
Technology companies have faced increasing pressure this year to stop acting as a vehicle for hate speech, and to proactively clean up their platforms. However, action from the tech giants hasn’t always been swift or decisive — and Cook admits there is still plenty of work left to do.
Take for example the case of Alex Jones. Apple pulled the InfoWars conspiracy theorist’s podcast from its platform in August, but didn’t remove his InfoWars app until September. Facebook and YouTube suspended Jones in July, but didn’t ban him until August. Twitter didn’t ban InfoWars content until September.
“If we can’t be clear on moral questions like these then we’ve got big problems,” Cook said about tackling hate. “At Apple, we are not afraid to say that our values drive our curation decisions. And why should we be? Doing what’s right — creating experiences free from violence and hate, experiences that empower creativity and new ideas — is what our customers want us to do.”
Cook has long been a champion for equality and has frequently spoken out about social issues around the world, whether it’s gay rights, ending anti-Semitism or the temporary travel ban President Donald Trump enacted last year against people traveling to the United States from predominantly Muslim countries.
After Heather Heyer was killed protesting the white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, Cook sent a memo to Apple employees that said Apple must be “unequivocal” in condemning and fighting hate and bigotry.
“What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country,” the memo said. “Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path.”