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The president was visiting Chancellor Angela Merkel when he decided to bring light to the issue of fake news spreading on social media outlets. This election season fake news stories like one about Denzel Washington supporting Donald Trump spread like wildfire on Facebook. Users also reached out to Mark Zuckerberg about how fake news on the popular site caused problems with the 2016 presidential election.
The most relevant quotes from Obama’s speech were transcribed by Media Matters below.
Because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation, and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some overzealousness on the part of a U.S. official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect. We won’t know what to fight for. And we can lose so much of what we’ve gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we’ve come to take for granted.
Obama agrees with the majority of the public that fake news has a negative effect on U.S. society. Other news publications, like BuzzFeed, have constructed studies regarding fake news and its effect on the election: fake articles were more successful on the platform than real ones. Hopefully this message will influence Facebook and social media websites alike to regulate news that can be shared across their platforms.