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Obama criticizes social media for its spread of misinformation

“People are dying because of misinformation.”

barack obama social media speech
Image: Stanford

Former President Barack Obama took to the stage earlier this week to share his thoughts on social media. In fact, the former president says that misinformation is one of the biggest threats to democracy.

The former president spoke at a Stanford University Cyber Policy Center event on Thursday. There, Obama shared his thoughts about the spread of misinformation on social media platforms and urged platforms to take steps to address the issue.

“One of the biggest reasons for democracy’s weakening is the profound change in how we communicate and consume information,” the former president shared. You can check out his full, one-hour speech here, or watch the compressed clip below.

“All we see is a constant feed of content where useful, factual information, and happy diversions (and cat videos), flow alongside lies, conspiracy theories, junk science, quackery, white supremacists, racist tracts, misogynist screeds,” he continues.

“Over time we lose our capacity to distinguish between fact, opinion, and wholesale fiction.”

The former president also cited situations like the January 6 storming of the Capitol Building and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine as instances where misinformation is at its highest on social platforms. “People are dying because of misinformation.”

Obama called on both the government and the leaders of major social platforms to address this problem. “Just like every industry with an impact on our society…these platforms need to be subject to some oversight,” he said.

“These companies need to have some other North Star other than just making money and increasing market share,” he continued. He also suggested changes to Section 230 that shield these platforms from accountability for the content they contain.

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