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Barack Obama Facebook Media

Barack Obama: fake news creates ‘problems’ for US politics if distinctions are not made

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By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

November 18, 2016 | 3 min read

President Barack Obama has offered his piece on the uncovering of fake news on Facebook and other social media suggesting that the lack of distinction between serious arguments and propaganda on these platforms creates “problems” for US politics.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

The topic has been hotly debated since the surprise election of Donald Trump as president-elect, which some observers have suggested was affected by the circulation of fake news on social media in the run-up to the vote.

“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, particularly in an age of social media where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets on their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” Obama said during a press conference in Germany.

He went on to say that we live in an age of “so much active misinformation” that is “packaged very well” and looks the same on a Facebook page or on TV.

“If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made then we wont know what to protect, we wont know what to fight for, and we can lose so much of what we have gained in terms of the democratic freedoms and market based economies and prosperity that we have come to take for granted,” he added.

The President first commented on the issue of fake news on social media in November, criticising how the spread of "crazy conspiracy theorizing" creates a "dust cloud of nonsense."

Both Google and Facebook have come under fire for their apparent role in furthering the spread of inaccurate information by not having processes in place to verify the legitimacy of news published on their platforms.

Such criticism prompted Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg assert that there were already processes in place to enable the Facebook community to flag hoaxes and fake news, but admitted "there is more we can do here".

In an attempt to tackle the issue, both Google and Facebook announced plans to clamp down on fake news sites earlier this week by barring them from using their respective ad networks, thus cutting such sites off from a crucial line of revenue, in a sign that both companies are seriously heeding complaints over their role in the spread of misinformation.

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