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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Pro-Censorship Obama Praises Putin’s ‘Absolute Control of Information’

'I think it is reasonable for us as a society to have a debate and then to put in place a combination of regulatory measures and industry norms...'

(Tony Sifert, Headline USA) During a conference at the University of Chicago on “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy,” former President Barack Obama called for the development of “regulatory measures and industry norms” according to which Big Tech could limit the spread of so-called “disinformation.”

In conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, the former president accused social media companies of developing a “product design” model that “monetizes anger, resentment, conflict, division, and . . . violence,” and argued that Big Tech has made Americans “flabby and confused and feckless,” according to Breitbart.

Obama appeared envious of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “absolute control of information within Russia” and admitted that as president he had “underestimated the degree to which democracies were” vulnerable to disinformation.

He pointed to two particular recent instances of the consequences of disinformation: that “40 percent of the country . . . appears convinced that . . . the election was rigged” and that “30 to 35 percent of the country . . . has chosen not to avail itself of” the COVID-19 vaccine.

He went on to lament the “breakdown” of a postwar consensus according to which journalists and media corporations “agreed on process” if not on substance, and he fretted that Americans “are no longer operating by the same rules or on the same facts.”

Americans are now the victims of “the nationalization of sort of a grievance-, anger-based journalism,” and the results can be “fatal,” Obama told Goldberg, pointing in particular to the deadly plight of being a “person of color” or “a trans person right now.”

“I do think that there is a demand for crazy on the internet that we have to grapple with,” Obama said.

Goldberg asked what “a self-described near First Amendment absolutist” would do to solve the problem.

“I do think that the tech companies are going to be increasingly the dominant players,” the former president responded. “And I think it is reasonable for us as a society to have a debate and then to put in place a combination of regulatory measures and industry norms.”

Obama pointed in particular to “the issue of anonymity and the distinction between bots and humans,” and suggested that “there may be modifications there that can be made.”

“Democracy is premised on the idea that we can come up with processes,” Obama continued. “Including how we share information and argue about information that encourages our better angels.”

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