President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are blaming the internet for disrupting the forces of globalism, suggesting that technology is making it more difficult to unite people behind a common purpose.
“Because of the internet and communications, the clash of cultures is much more direct,” Obama said during a press conference on his trip to Berlin. “People feel, I think, less certain about their identity. Less certain about economic security.”
Obama predicted that the rise of technology needed to be managed to give world citizens more control, beyond the simplistic answers found online.
His German counterpart agreed.
“Digitization is a disruptive force, a disruptive technological force that brings about deep-seated change, transformation of a society,” Merkel added.
She compared the internet to the invention of the printing press, citing the consequences it had on industrialized countries.
“It took a while until societies learned how to find the right kind of policies to contain this and to manage and steer this,” she said.
Obama blamed social media for creating a climate where facts didn’t matter, asserting that facts were the basis of democracy. Social media, he explained, allowed people to get their information “in sound bites” off their phones.
“Part of ways changed in politics is social media and how people are receiving information,” he said, “It’s easier to make negative attacks and simplistic slogans than it is to communicate complex policies.”
He warned that “active misinformation” packaged for Facebook was a problem when it’s creators tried to equate an “overzealousness” of a United States government official with a foreign dictator.
“If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” he warned.
It’s not the first time that President Obama has griped about media, as he has floated suggestions of some kind of regulation of the internet.
In October, he pointed out that it was time to move the internet beyond the “Wild Wild West” stage and proposed “truthiness tests” for media companies online.
Merkel has demonstrated a propensity for censorship for social media, specifically to social media posts criticizing a flood of Syrian refugees into the country.