Obama Backs 'Government Regulation and Control' over the Internet
Former president calls out 'systematic effort to... promote false information'
Former President Barack Obama has declared that government regulation and control over the internet can defeat a “demand for crazy” through the spread of "incorrect messages."
Obama spoke with Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg at an event hosted by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and the magazine.
“I do think that there is a demand for crazy on the internet that we have to grapple with,” Obama said.
The former president added that a mix of regulation and industry standards is needed to address the issue.
Obama then lamented how misinformation plays out across the U.S.
He then highlighted those who claimed President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election as guilty of falling for conspiracy theories.
He called out “a systematic effort to either promote false information, to suppress true information, for the purpose of political gain, financial gain, enhancing power, suppressing others, targeting those you don’t like.”
The former president blamed smartphones for accelerating “an erosion of accountability norms and standards in political life” from 2010 onwards.
Once the creation of social media occurred, the type of rhetoric was able to “spread and accelerate,” he said, putting those who challenge medical opinions on coronavirus vaccinations as suffering from the same delusions.
“Roughly 40 percent of the country appears convinced that the current president was elected fraudulently and that the election was rigged,” he claimed, with about 30-35 percent rejecting vaccines for coronavirus, which he called a “medical miracle” that had been clinically tested by a billion people.
Obama appeared to be citing an Axios-Momentive poll from January, which found that 40 percent of Americans still do not believe Biden is the legitimate winner of his 2020 election against Trump.
Obama took a swipe at journalists as well, saying that the destruction of local media and the rise of news through big tech and social media have "exacerbated making democracy more difficult."
He made the point of comparison to how Russians were unable to see any information about their invasion of Ukraine.
“If that’s true in our society, imagine how any of us would process information if we are not getting, seeing, anything else?” he asked.
“It is difficult for me to see how we can win the contest of ideas if, in fact, we are not able to agree on a baseline of facts that allow the marketplace of ideas to work.”
He then tied it to a growing laziness from people operating on behalf of democracies and that it led to the invasion.
“We have gotten complacent. And I cannot guarantee that as a consequence of what has happened that we are shaking off that complacency,” he said.