Former President Barack Obama joins the chorus of influential people criticizing Facebook and Google for their enormous power and the purportedly adverse effects of their respective platforms.
Clarifying that such companies can be a “hugely powerful potential force for good,” Obama also said that they really are “just a tool” that can be exploited, according to Reason.
“ISIS can use that tool. Neo-Nazis can use that tool,” he said. “I do think the large platforms — Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem — have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise.”
Obama once conversed with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the alleged problem of “fake news” on the social media platform, The New York Times reported. (RELATED: Zuckerberg Promises To Protect ‘Election Integrity’ After Handing Over Docs To Mueller)
“There’s so much misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” Obama said in Germany, according to a separate NYT report.
Several former Facebook higher-ups, including founding President Sean Parker, and many others with insider information about the tech giant have essentially come forward as whistleblowers in recent months. All, in some way, expressed deep-seated concerns with the social media company. (RELATED: Clinton’s Commerce Undersecretary Wants To End Big Tech’s Monopoly)
“It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other,” Parker said, according to Axios. “It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Obama more so focused on the two aforementioned companies’ contributions to information — or misinformation — dissemination. During discussions about the potential role of government, reports Reason, Obama said there may be a need for “basic rules of the road … that create level playing fields.”
It also may not just be about “Russian inspired bots and fake news,” as Obama noted how there are different interpretations in news stories and ostensible facts.
“This is Fox News vs. The New York Times editorial page,” Obama said. “If you look at these different sources of information, they do not describe the same thing. In some cases, they don’t even talk about the same thing. And so it is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances.”
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