President Obama spoke out against fake news on Facebook during a press conference on Thursday with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, and called on the importance of being “serious about facts.”
“In an age where there’s so much active misinformation, ― and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television ― where some overzealousness on the part of, you know, a U.S. official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same, and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” Obama said.
Facebook has been forced to grapple with its fake-news problem since the election thrust it into the public spotlight.
A recent study by BuzzFeed showed that in the lead-up to the election, the top fake-news stories on Facebook outperformed legitimate news stories shared by some of the most popular media companies.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has, however, dismissed the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election.
“Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — it’s a very small amount of the content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said at a recent press conference.
But Obama didn’t take misinformation lightly on Thursday.
“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media, where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” Obama said.
Obama said that if all people, both conservative and liberal, took absolutist views and demonized their opponents, then “democracy will break down.” In a previous speech, Obama said that the repetition of these attacks and “outright lies” on Facebook will cause people to actually start believing them.
“It creates this dust cloud of nonsense,” he said.