Obama Rails at Tech Companies for “Misinformation” and Urges Government Reform Measures

Former President Barack Obama on Thursday pointed his finger at tech companies for increasing the spread of disinformation, and then predictably called for stricter government regulation.

Remember when the left was fanatical about protecting free speech, no matter the content?

During an address at Stanford University, Obama said social media platforms are “turbocharging some of humanity’s worst impulses,” and the damage is worsened by specific decisions made by companies. Citing examples of false information about COVID-19, 2020 election conspiracies and Russian dissemination of propaganda before invading Ukraine, Obama charged the effect is to weaken democratic institutions.

The former president bemoaned what he said was his administration’s failure to recognize the American public’s susceptibility “to lies and conspiracy theories.”

He called out both Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon for a situation where citizens “don’t know what to believe.” The former president advocated government action, employee-led reforms in tech companies, and a change in how news and information is consumed online.

In his Thursday speech, Obama pointed to plans for reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides tech companies with a liability shield for content posted by third parties. The measure is controversial for both political parties and there is currently no consensus on a path to reform.

And while the former president did not offer specifics for addressing the issue, he called on companies to fixate on more than profit and market share. He also challenged Stanford students to be “agents for change” and part of a redesign in the nation’s political discourse. And if that is not successful, he urged the audience to “vote with your feet” and move to other businesses “that are trying to do the right thing.”

Many credit social media with the groundswell of support Obama built in 2008 when most of the country was unaware of his existence. From the underdog to the White House, a prototypical American story.

Flash forward to 2016, however, and another newcomer — certainly on the national political stage — is swept into the White House. Only this time, that newcomer is not a darling of the left, and this means that free speech must now be regulated for the sake of “democracy.”