President Barack Obama joined the liberal chorus of criticizing “fake news” suggesting that the so-called fact-free journalism spread on social media was part of the reason why Democrats lost in the 2016 election.
“If, generally, we’ve got elections that aren’t focused on issues and are full of fake news and false information and distractions, then the issue is not going to be what’s happening from the outside; the issue is going to be what are we doing for ourselves from the inside,” Obama said during a press conference in Peru over the weekend.
Obama discussed the issue as reporters questioned him about Russia hacking the Democratic National Committee and seemingly releasing emails to swing the election.
He said that he was less concerned about propaganda and hacking and more concerned about the way information was promulgated on social media.
“As I’ve said before, the concern I have has less to do with any particular misinformation or propaganda that’s being put out by any particular party, and a greater concern about the general misinformation from all kinds of sources — domestic, foreign, on social media — that make it very difficult for voters to figure out what’s true and what’s not,” he said.
Obama has spent a greater part of his post-election reflecting on the issue of social media and it’s effect on Democrats losing the election.
“Part of ways changed in politics is social media and how people are receiving information,” he said, during a press conference in Germany. “It’s easier to make negative attacks and simplistic slogans than it is to communicate complex policies.”
He added that it was difficult for Americans to “discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda,” asserting that facts were essential to a functioning democracy.
Part of Donald Trump’s victory, Obama believes, is his ability to thrive on social media.
“Trump understands the new ecosystem, in which facts and truth don’t matter,” Obama said in an interview with the New Yorker. “You attract attention, rouse emotions, and then move on.”
As he grew in power, Obama explained, conservative media made it more difficult for him to attract support.
“In southern Illinois, in those counties I won, I was at V.F.W.s and fish fries hearing people’s stories and talking to folks, so that they knew me,” Obama said, referring to his Senate election in 2004. “They weren’t getting me through Fox or Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart or RedState.”