The president may have been in Germany as part of his final official tour abroad, but the subject returned to the United States, and more particularly, the problem of fake news.
In a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama described the danger fake news posed in a democratic society.
“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not and particularly in the age of social media where so many people are getting their information in soundbites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” he said.
The president continued, again bringing up the role that social media plays in its spread, something that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has tried to distance himself from, especially as it applied to the influence on the election:
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 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. We won’t know what to fight for.
BuzzFeed quantified the problem yesterday, demonstrating that fake news exploded on Facebook during the last three months of the election. “The top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others,” wrote Craig Silverman, to the tune of “8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.”