BERING STRAIT + TROPIC OF CANCER SERIES Report: Former President Barack Obama visited Stanford University in Silicon Valley in April to talk about a new North Star vision for the internet as he believed the profound changes taking place around the world in how we communicate and consume information are weakening democracies. According to him, technology has transformed the way people create and consume media. Digital and social media companies have upended traditional media – from local newspapers to broadcast television, as well as the role these outlets played in society at large.
Alluding to disruptionists and conspiracy theorists, etc., Obama characterized how these forces in his view operate or may be operating:
“We must (therefore) work together to adapt old institutions and values to a new era of information. “If we do nothing, I’m convinced the trends that we’re seeing will get worse,” he said.
A veteran international media personality based in Islamabad, when asked to comment on the above video clip told despardes.com, “Aren’t we (Pakistanis) in the same state?”
“I take it the gentleman was referring to the state of affairs in the country’s ecosystem due to social media, info & media manipulation, disinfo and the ‘regime change ‘conspiracies around PM Khan’s ouster in April,” a Karachi-based observer says.
“Young people and the motley educated community, plus a significant number of the 9m overseas Pakistanis who espouse rule of law in their resident countries also been supportive of Khan and his 3 and half years rule.”
Obama, who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 said, “There is a consistent theme which is young people are trying to bring about change and they keep on confronting institutional barriers that make it hard for them and the communities they’re working with to get anything done.” During his conversation in Chicago with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg said, “A lot of the reason that it’s so hard to bring about change is we live in a media environment now that elevates falsehoods as much as truths, that divides people more than it brings them together.”
Obama was the keynote speaker at a one-day symposium, titled “Challenges to Democracy in the Digital Information Realm”.
‘Regulation has to be part of the answer’ to combating online disinformation, Barack Obama said at the Stanford event: “During the 1960s and 1970s, the American public tuned in to one of three major networks, and while media from those earlier eras had their own set of problems – such as excluding women and people of color – they did provide people with a shared culture,” Obama said.
“Moreover, these media institutions, with established journalistic best practices for accuracy and accountability, also provided people with similar information: “When it came to the news, at least, citizens across the political spectrum tended to operate using a shared set of facts – what they saw or what they heard from Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley.””
“Fast forward to today, where everyone has access to individualized news feeds that are fed by algorithms that reward the loudest and angriest voices (and which technology companies profit from). “You have the sheer proliferation of content, and the splintering of information and audiences,” Obama observed. “That’s made democracy more complicated.””
“Facts are competing with opinions, conspiracy theories, and fiction. “For more and more of us, search and social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet. They serve as our primary source of news and information,” Obama said. “No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions, and subtle manipulations.””
“The splintering of news sources has also made all of us more prone to what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” Obama said. “Inside our personal information bubbles, our assumptions, our blind spots, our prejudices aren’t challenged, they are reinforced and naturally, we’re more likely to react negatively to those consuming different facts and opinions – all of which deepens existing racial and religious and cultural divides.”” More here >