Former President Obama warns of social media echo chamber in a Prince Harry interview

President Barack Obama spoke candidly about the power and danger of social media in a BBC radio interview with Prince Harry on Wednesday.

Obama warned of the “Balkanization of society” thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, which his successor, Donald Trump, frequently uses to espouse his opinions spontaneously.

“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,” said Obama in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanisation of society and allows ways of finding common ground.”

On Wednesday morning, Trump did not tweet. But just three days before on Christmas Eve, Trump created another round of controversy on Twitter by saying he was “proud to have led the charge against the assault” of Americans saying “Merry Christmas.”

Earlier on Christmas Eve, Trump attacked FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe as a “(Hillary) Clinton Puppet” and returned to his usual “fake news” attack against the mainstream media.

Obama did not mention Trump by name in the interview. But he recommended that face-to-face interactions help offset the extreme views echoed on social media.

“It’s important for them to get offline, meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighbourhood and get to know each other,” said Obama. “Because the truth is that on the internet, everything is simplified and when you meet people face-to-face it turns out they’re complicated.”

Obama also spoke about his last days in the White House. He compared his job as the President to a “relay runner” where he passes the baton to his successor the best he can.

“If you ran hard, you did your best and you were able to pass that baton successfully and the world was a little better then you had done your job,” said Obama.

He also stayed optimistic about the future, saying “if you had to choose a moment in human history in which you’d want to be born you’d choose today” due to the rise in education, healthcare and tolerance amid a decline in large-scale wars worldwide.

Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and the fifth in line to the British crown, joined BBC 4 Radio as a guest host and editor. In addition to Obama, he interviewed his father, largely about climate change.

He landed an interview with Obama due to their friendship over the past few years, built by their collaboration of the Invictus Games, an event for injured servicemen and women founded by Prince Harry in 2014.

Prince Harry has been in the media spotlight over the past few months over his expected wedding in May with American actress Meghan Markle.

British officials reportedly were concerned about Prince Harry inviting Barack and Michelle Obama — but not Trump — to the wedding and causing a possible strain between the two countries. When asked by another BBC 4 Radio host after his Obama interview about the wedding invitations, Prince Harry skirted the issue.

“Who knows whether he’s going to be invited or not,” said Prince Harry. “I wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise.”


Tags: , , , , ,


Share this Post

  • AC

    “One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,”

    Like President’s weekly address where Obama said, “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold”

    Don’t do what I do, do what I say.