The first president to have a Twitter account thinks social media needs to change.
In what was supposed to be an off-the-record speech at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, Barack Obama shared his concerns about how social media has un-united these states of ours. Libertarian magazine Reason obtained an audio recording of Obama’s speech in which the former president noted that Americans are basically living in “entirely different realities,” with not just different opinions, but different facts, too. Lamenting the “balkanization of our public conversation,” Obama quoted former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to note that, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
“And this isn’t just by the way Russian-inspired bots and fake news,” Obama said. “This is Fox News vs. The New York Times editorial page.” The two “do not describe the same thing. In some cases, they don’t even talk about the same thing.” In light of that growing divide, which makes “it is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances.”
Obama argued that the internet’s giants have a responsibility to look at their business models and work toward creating a common conversation. “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. They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”
Listen to Obama’s full speech here.