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Barack Obama said he underestimated the threat of misinformation during his tenure

Former President Barack Obama spoke at length about the spread of misinformation during the 2020 presidential election and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying he had underestimated the vulnerability of the world’s democracies, including including the United States, while he was in the White House.

Obama made the comments during a disinformation conference on Wednesday, speaking about his experience with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s iron fist on news about the country amid its invasion of Ukraine. But he added that the threat of misinformation has come to roost in his home, saying the nation has “crazy internet demand that we have to grapple with”.

“If you ask me what concerns me the most when I look back at the end of my presidency, it probably has more to do with the topic here today,” he said during the event, presented by The Atlantic and the University of Chicago Institute of Policy. “It’s something that I struggled with a lot during my presidency. I kind of saw it unfold, and that’s how information, misinformation, misinformation was weaponized.

“I think I underestimated how democracies were as vulnerable to it as they were, including ours,” Obama continued.

He pointed to repeated claims by many Americans — including his successor, Donald Trump — that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, as well as widespread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

“For all the flaws that exist in our own society, you can get all the information you want right now. Unfiltered, there’s literally nothing you can’t receive right now in this room,” Obama said. “And yet, in our society…about 40% of the country seems convinced that the current president was elected fraudulently and that the election was rigged.”

He went on to say that social media companies should be more transparent about their practices rather than profiting from disputes.

“The growth of social media and technology whose product design monetizes anger, resentment, conflict, division, and in some cases makes people very vulnerable…can lead to violence,” a- he declared. “It’s not just the Rohingya in Myanmar, it’s not just in a distant place. But if you’re a woman, if you’re a person of color, if you’re a trans person… what’s said matters.

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