President Obama on fake news problem: “We won’t know what to fight for”

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President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin Thursday during a visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and during his remarks he addressed concerns about fake news circulating via social platforms like Facebook. On the subject of fake news, Obama noted that the ease with which we can make false information seem like genuine facts on platforms including “a Facebook page” means there’s great risk for audiences.

Media Matters excerpted the relevant portion of Obama’s address in the following video, with a transcript that follows:

Because 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. And we can lose so much of what we’ve gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we’ve come to take for granted.

Obama’s comments suggest he believes that the propagation of fake news through outlets like Facebook and Google News represent a true threat to some of the fundamental building blocks of U.S. society. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed has renewed discussion of the impact of false news spread via Facebook on the U.S. election with a new investigative analysis of stories on the platform spanning the three months prior to the vote, which found that false headlines outperformed genuine ones in terms of engagement.

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