Obama warns against divisive use of social media

File Photo: Barack Obama

Washington, Dec 27 (IANS) Former US President Barack Obama has warned against the irresponsible use of social media that fosters division and leads to the “Balkanisation of society”, in what was seen as a dig at his successor and prolific tweeter Donald Trump.

Obama was speaking to Britain’s Prince Harry in an interview for the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme which was broadcast on Wednesday morning.

Obama warned that the Internet risked reinforcing people’s prejudices and leading to a fractured society. “All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet.”

He expressed concern about a future where facts are discarded and people only read and listen to things that reinforce their own views.

“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,” he said.

Obama did not mention Trump by name during the interview, which he said was his first since leaving office. However, Trump’s campaign and presidency have been characterized by his outspoken use of Twitter.

“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,” Obama said in the interview, which was taped in September.

Asked how he felt on the day he left office in January, Obama described mixed feelings. “The sense that there was a completion, and that we had done the work in a way that preserved our integrity and that we hadn’t fundamentally changed, I think was a satisfying feeling,” he said.

“That was mixed with all the work that was still undone and concerns about how the country moves forward. But overall there was a serenity there.”

Obama also paid tribute to former First Lady Michelle Obama, describing her as a “spectacular, funny, warm person” who despite not being politically inclined herself had supported him throughout the process.

After quizzing Obama, Prince Harry said: “I haven’t done that many interviews but it was quite fun, especially interviewing President Obama despite the fact he wanted to interview me.”