Obama Warns Against Fake News

President Obama has added his voice to the growing chorus of concern about fake news social media, an issue which attracted sudden attention following Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The president made the remarks during a joint press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel on his last official overseas trip.

Alluding to alleged widespread falsehoods circulating online during the election, Obama observed: “If we are not serious about the facts and what’s true and what’s not, particularly in the social media era when so many get information from sound bites and snippets off their phone, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

Obama also indicated that some action is required to distinguish between real and fake news, although he left it unclear where that responsibility falls, whether with governments or industry: “In an age where there’s so much misinformation, and it's packaged well, it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television ... if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won't know what to protect.”

Earlier this week, Facebook and Google appeared to tacitly acknowledge the need to crack down on fake news on the sites, with Facebook for example banning fake news publishers from the Facebook Audience Network, which allows advertisers to include sites from outside Facebook in their ad campaigns. However, the policy won’t necessarily affect fake news that appears in the social network’s own News Feed – a much higher profile area. The decision follows a similar announcement from Google, which is tightening the rules for its AdSense network.

For his part, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that attributing the election result to fake news is simplistic and dismissive of the many real concerns of Trump voters. It’s also worth noting that Trump made essentially parallel arguments about the mainstream news media, which he accused of biased, unfair coverage – and also touted social media like Twitter for helping him to even the playing field.
1 comment about "Obama Warns Against Fake News".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 18, 2016 at 10:06 a.m.

    What about extending our concern to fake news items ---aka "native advertising"--- that appear along with real news headlines on Yahoo's home page and, I assume, elsewhere, to trick users to clicking on---- only to find that they are looking at thinnly disguised sales pitches? 

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