Ex-US President Barack Obama highlighted the grave effects of social media on the population during his speech at Stanford University. He pointed out the contribution of popular social media platforms in spreading misinformation among the general public.
He also showed support for revising section 230, the provision that allows social media companies to operate without accountability.
Obama’s concerns about Social Media
Barack Obama expressed his opinions about the current state of unregulated social media platforms. He raised concerns about the operating tactics of many social platforms and how they contributed to the political polarization of people. Moreover, the algorithms used by social media platforms need to come under regulatory oversight.
Obama shared that he was unable to perceive the adverse effect of unregulated social media platforms. Pointing to his inadequacy in dealing with this proliferating problem, he said, “my failure to fully appreciate at the time, just how susceptible we had become to lies and conspiracy theories, despite spending years being a target of disinformation myself.”
He further pointed out that social media platforms are all about eyeballs and do not consider the type of content that attracts viewers. It is well known that conflicts, hate speech, and abusive behavior draw a lot of eyeballs to these platforms.
Suggestions to improve the situation
Obama Standford’s speech discussed measures to hold social media giants accountable. The primary topic was the revision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This act prevents social media platforms from liability over the content that users post.
Section 230 gives a clean chit to social media platforms in case of any event that sparks controversy. Tech giants present themselves as mere managers of the platform. But this would change with the revision of Section 230. Obama is supporting the movement that will amend the act to hold social media institutions accountable for the content present on their platform.
Obama requested the companies to move beyond profiteering from such content and make amends to their algorithm. Instagram recently made amends to promote original content and curb the reach of TikToks disguised as reels. Facebook, recently Meta, has also started releasing adversarial threat reports to show what it is doing to keep a check on bad actors.