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Apple CEO Calls Big Tech A ‘Chaos Factory’ In Commencement Speech

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Austin Community College (ACC) President/CEO Dr. Richard Rhodes join Austin Mayor Steve Adler and State Senator Kirk Watson for an exciting announcement launching a new app development program at ACC on Friday, August 25, 2017 at the Capital Factory in downtown Austin, Texas.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Austin Community College (ACC) President/CEO Dr. Richard Rhodes join Austin Mayor Steve Adler and State Senator Kirk Watson for an exciting announcement launching a new app development program at ACC on Friday, August 25, 2017 at the Capital Factory in downtown Austin, Texas. (Photo: Austin Community College)

“If you find yourself spending more time fighting than getting to work, stop and ask yourself, ‘Who benefits from all the chaos?'”

Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized Big Tech companies for failing to manage the chaos they unleash during a Stanford Commencement Speech on Sunday. The speech represents the Apple executive’s latest veiled attack at rivals like Facebook and Google, as the CEO seeks to differentiate Apple from other tech corporations and redirect public outrage over privacy abuses away from his firm.

“Lately it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation – the belief you can claim credit without accepting responsibility,” Cook said. “We see it every day now with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning out national conversation, the false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood.”

He continued: “It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this, but if you built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos.”

Apple Tries to Differentiate Itself From Silicon Valley

Cook’s comments display an awareness of the shifting national conversation around Silicon Valley giants, as scandals like the Cambridge Analytica data breach have ignited calls for regulation and antitrust action. The CEO has repeatedly attempted to separate Apple from other tech giants, telling MSNBC that Silicon Valley “is not monolithic” and arguing Apple’s business model is not based on the monetization of user data, saying “we don’t traffic in your data. We very much are on your side.”

Some analysts argue Cook’s efforts to position himself away from tech criticism don’t reflect his company’s actions. While the CEO claims Apple is not a monopoly, critics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have called for antitrust action on the company’s relationship with its App Store, where it simultaneously serves as a platform and a competitor on its own marketplace.

Spotify, for example, issued a complaint against Apple in March for limiting its operations, imposing unfair taxes and using its leverage over the platform to give an unfair advantage to its own streaming service Apple Music. According to the New York Times, Apple also “removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps,” while Apple created its own screen-time tracker with unfair advantages.

“They yanked us out of the blue with no warning,” Amir Moussavian, CEO of OurPact, a parental-control app with over three million downloads that Apple removed from its App store, told the Times. “They are systematically killing the industry.”

“It’s one thing to make these points at Stanford — it would be another to present them to federal regulators,” wrote Axios.

Apple Vs Facebook

Tension between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also surfaced last November amid reports that Zuckerberg ordered employees to use Androids rather than iPhones in response to Cook’s criticism of companies who monetize their user’s data. According to the New York Times, Facebook also hired a public relations firm called Definers Public Affairs to spread negative coverage of Apple and other rivals.

Facebook denied the report about Definers Public Affairs, but admitted to Zuckerberg encouraging his staff to use Androids, albeit saying it was not in retaliation to Cook’s criticism of his company.

Cook’s Stanford speech mirrored an earlier commencement address the CEO gave in March, in which the executive criticized Big Tech’s influence on major societal issues.

“In some important ways, my generation has failed you. We spent too much time debating, too focused on the fight and not enough on progress,” the Apple CEO said at Tulane University, referencing climate change. “If you find yourself spending more time fighting than getting to work, stop and ask yourself, ‘Who benefits from all the chaos?”

In his March address, Cook levied another veiled criticism at Facebook, which has been blamed for exacerbating political polarization by curating its users news feed with their personal data.

“There are some who would like to believe that the only way you can be strong is by bulldozing those who disagree with you… We forget sometimes that our pre-existing beliefs have their own force of gravity. Today, certain algorithms pull toward you things that you already know, believe or like. And they push away everything else. Push back! It shouldn’t be this way.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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