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Friday, December 09, 2022

Obama warns of damaging democracy with social media propaganda

Former President Barack Obama said Thursday that propaganda on social media is harming democracy, and that social media companies should be subject to regulation.

“One of the biggest reasons why democracy is weakening is the profound changes in the way we communicate and consume information,” Obama said in a speech at Stanford University.

Obama noted that most people rely on search tools and social media as their main sources of news and information, but he warned that there are dangers in a constant feed of unneeded content.

“Over time, we lose our ability to differentiate between fact, opinion, and wholesale fiction,” he said.

Obama reiterated a call he made for social media companies to share how their algorithms determine news feeds.

According to The New York Times, Obama said, “A lot of the conversation around disinformation has focused on what people post.” “The bigger issue is what content these platforms promote,”

Obama said social media companies should be subject to regulation to stop the flow of propaganda.

“With that power comes accountability and democracies like ours require, at least, some democratic oversight,” he said.

He also referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who knows how to exploit social media to advance his personal interests and undermine democratic institutions.

“Social media does not create racism or white supremacist groups,” he said according to Nation World News. “It didn’t create the kind of ethnocentrism Putin is excited about. All these things existed long before the first tweets or Facebook pokes.”

Still, he said the steps to lower the temperature on social media “could help ease the divisions and we need to rebuild trust and solidarity.”

This is not the first time Obama has discussed propaganda. Earlier this month, he admitted he had underestimated how vulnerable the world’s democracies, including the US, were when he was president.

Obama has been making several public appearances recently, including at the White House, to support the Affordable Care Act and promote his new Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks.”

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