In a speech at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection virtual conference n Brussels, the iPhone maker’s chief executive said that social media apps prioritise “conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of their high rates of engagement.”
Cook, who did name Facebook directly, added: “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.
“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,” he said.
Commercial interests are also driving the exchange of words between the tech giants and unusually Apple was named by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg in a conference call after its earnings statement this week.
Describing Apple as one of its biggest competitors, he said the new iOS 14 operating system being introduced by the iPhone group would potentially have a major impact on its business.
“Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own impact,” he said at the time.
Apple’s iOS 14 requires app developers to get permission to track user behaviour.
Users will be given a prompt if Facebook or someone else attempts to track them, which the social media group says is an anti-competitive measure designed solely to boost Apple’s own ad revenues.
Apple is already embroiled in a legal battle with Epic Games, the developer of the hugely successful Fortnite video game.
The tech group removed the game from its app store following the introduction of a direct payment feature that allowed users to buy in-game currency directly from Epic without using the app store and thereby depriving Apple of its 30% cut of sales.
Social media has been firmly in the spotlight since the US Capitol building riot earlier this month, with apps blamed for stoking the violence.
A new example appeared this week on Wall Street as users of the Reddit website sparked huge share price movements in the shares of Gamestop through organised purchases.