Obama Claims Tech Companies Spreading Disinformation

Obama Claims Tech Companies Spreading Disinformation Obama Claims Tech Companies Spreading Disinformation Former President Barack Obama speaks during an event to mark the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Luca Cacciatore | Thursday, 21 April 2022 07:24 PM

Former President Barack Obama called out Big Tech during a speech on Thursday, claiming the industry has not done enough to curb the spread of disinformation despite repeated pledges to clamp down, The Hill reported.

In a nearly hour-long speech, Obama told a crowd at Stanford University that social media was "turbocharging some of humanity's worst impulses."

However, the former president noted that some of the issues posed by these new information ecosystems resulted from "very specific choices, made by the companies that have come to dominate the internet generally, and social media platforms in particular."

Among the examples of disinformation, Obama suggested social media companies have been complicit in skepticism surrounding COVID-19 and vaccination, allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 election, and Russian propaganda leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.

"People like Putin, and Steve Bannon for that matter, understand it's not necessary for people to believe this information in order to weaken democratic institutions," Obama said of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Stephen K. Bannon, a chief adviser to former President Donald Trump in 2017.

"You just have to flood a country's public square with enough raw sewage. You just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plant enough conspiracy theorizing that citizens no longer know what to believe."

Obama added that once Americans "lose trust in their leaders, mainstream media, in political institutions, in each other, the possibility of truth — the game's won."

To combat the supposed disinformation, the former president advocated for government reform, employee-led change, and a shift in the way users consume news and information online.

"At the end of the day, the internet is a tool. Social media is a tool … tools don't control us. We control them. And we can remake them," Obama said.

"It's up to each of us to decide what we value and then use the tools we've been given to advance those values. And I believe we should use every tool at our disposal to secure our greatest gift —a government of, by and for the people, for generations to come," he said.

Obama also endorsed plans to reform or remove Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives tech companies a legal liability shield from content posted by third parties.

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