Social media ‘designed’ to weaken democracies: Obama

Former US President Barack Obama has broken his silence after a long time, saying that social media platforms are well-designed to destroy democracies.

Speaking at a Stanford University event late on Thursday, Obama called the present “another tumultuous, dangerous moment in history”.

“Disinformation is a threat to our democracy, and will continue to be unless we work together to address it,” he said.

Obama, who served as the 44th US President from 2009 to 2017, raised concerns on Russia’s 2016 election interference and the invasion of Ukraine.

“People like Putin, and Steve Bannon (Donald Trump’s senior advisor) for that matter, understand it’s not necessary for people to believe (misinformation) in order to weaken democratic institutions,” Obama emphasised.

“You just have to flood a country’s public square with enough raw sewage. You just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plan enough conspiracy theorising, that citizens no longer know what to believe,” he added.

Obama said that while we’re reaping what social media companies have sown, it may not be too late to make different choices, reports TechCrunch.

“Not all problems we are seeing now are an inevitable byproduct of this new technology. They’re also the result of very specific choices made by the companies that have come to dominate the internet, generally, and social media platforms in particular,” he noted.

In the competition between truth and falsehood, cooperation and conflict, “the very design of these platforms seems to be tilting us in the wrong direction. And we’re seeing the results,” Obama continued in his hour-long speech.

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