In first interview since leaving office, Obama warns of social media ‘dangers’

Dec. 27 (UPI) — In an interview with BBC Radio that aired Wednesday, former U.S. President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of irresponsible use of social media platforms, like Twitter.

In his first interview since leaving office in January, Obama told Britain’s Prince Harry on BBC Radio 4’s Best of Today that if technology isn’t used properly, it could lead to a fragmented society.

“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,” the 44th U.S. president said.

“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.”

While Obama didn’t specifically mention President Donald Trump — a frequent user of Twitter — he said those in leadership positions should seek to create a “common space on the Internet.”

“The truth is, on the Internet everything is simplified, but when you meet people face-to-face, it turns out it is complicated,” Obama said. “It is harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the Internet.”

Despite his warning about social media perils, Obama also credited the Internet platforms with his success, with Prince Harry calling him the first “social media president.”

“It was that grassroots army that really fueled my campaign — in part, brought together by the new technologies of the time of social media,” Obama said.

In Wednesday’s interview, which was conducted in Toronto in September, the former president also talked about what his life has been like since leaving the White House — saying it’s appeared to move in slow motion, and that he’s been able to spend more time talking to his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, and have “a long breakfast.”

Obama told Prince Harry he felt at ease leaving office, but also feels he could have done more.

“Overall there was serenity there, more than I would have expected,” Obama said, adding that his sense of achievement was laced with a sense of “all the work that was left undone.”

Viewing the presidency as a relay race, Obama said he feels like he successfully passed on the baton to Trump.

“We had run a good race,” he said.


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