Obama urges tech companies to enact stricter regulation, fight against the ‘disinformation problem’

On Thursday, former President Barack Obama called on tech corporations to give greater transparency regarding the way they promote content on their platforms and for stricter regulation of the industry as a whole to fight what he described as the “disinformation problem.”

Obama made his remarks in the heart of Silicon Valley in Stanford, California as part of his post-presidency agenda to tackle disinformation.

The debate over the spread of misleading information online picked up steam throughout the coronavirus pandemic and was worsened in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

“Social media did not create racism or white supremacist groups. It didn’t create the kind of ethnonationalism that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is enraptured with,” the former president remarked.

“All these things existed long before the first tweet or Facebook Poke. Solving the disinformation problem won’t cure all that ails our democracies or tears at the fabric of our world. But it can help tamp down divisions and let us rebuild the trust and solidarity needed.” 

“These companies are still way too guarded about how exactly their standards operate, or how their engagement ranking systems influence what goes viral and what doesn’t,” he continued.

“For more and more of us, search and social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet. They serve as our primary source of news and information. No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions and subtle manipulations.” 

The former president added that it is time for the federal government to start thinking about regulating aspects of Big Tech, potentially examining the role of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which partially shields social media companies from being held responsible for what content makes it onto their platforms.

Obama’s critics have claimed, with which the former president disagrees, that his infamous claim “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” made during his presidency is evidence that he has pushed misleading information himself occasionally. 




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