Former President Barack Obama is pushing a new plan that seeks to police the speech of the American people online and punish those who engage in “misinformation.”
Obama is advocating for the implementation of “digital fingerprints” as a mandatory requirement online to combat misinformation.
Obama suggests using new technology to track and identify individuals online in order to remove “misleading” information from the internet and provide consumers with accurate information.
The discussion took place during an episode of the podcast “The Axe Files,” hosted by David Axelrod, Obama’s former White House senior adviser, on CNN Audio.
Axelrod highlighted instances of “misinformation,” “disinformation,” and “deepfakes” targeting Obama. Reflecting on his presidency, Obama acknowledged being extensively recorded and photographed, making him a prime target for such digital manipulation.
“As I’ve told people, because I was the first digital president when I left office, I was probably the most recorded filmed photographed human in history, which is kind of a weird thing,” Obama said.
“But just the odds are that I was. As a consequence, there’s a lot of raw material there.”
“That technology’s here now,” Obama added.
Obama expressed concerns about the worsening issue of “misinformation,” particularly during the upcoming election cycle.
He proposed the idea of “digital fingerprints” to differentiate between truth and misinformation.
However, he emphasized that the primary approach should be continually reminding people of the existence of “misinformation.”
While acknowledging that most individuals are now aware that not everything online is true, Obama cautioned that “misinformation” can be weaponized to discourage voter participation by portraying the system as “rigged” and “corrupt.”
He highlighted the potential advantage this could provide to those in power and expressed worries about the further development of cynicism during the next election.
“So, most immediately we’re going to have all the problems we had with misinformation before, [but] this next election cycle will be worse,” he said.
“And the need for us, for the general public, I think to be more discriminating consumers of news and information, the need for us to overtime develop technologies to create watermarks or digital fingerprints so we know what is true and what is not true,” he continued.
This interview follows the Obama Foundation’s recent video lecture on “widespread disinformation” and the importance of journalists in supporting democracy by creating an informed environment.
Last year, Obama announced the foundation’s initiative to combat “misinformation,” which drew criticism from conservatives.
Obama’s speech at Stanford University, where he addressed the dangers of “disinformation,” also received backlash for promoting the debunked narrative of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia in the 2016 election.
Critics have highlighted previous instances where Obama’s statements were deemed misleading, such as his “Lie of the Year” in 2013 regarding the promise that individuals could keep their health care plans under the Affordable Care Act.
The Biden administration also faced criticism for attempting to establish the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board, with conservatives arguing that it could suppress free speech and dissent under the guise of tackling misinformation.
Barack Obama also argued that it was problematic that people spread misinformation about the Covid vaccinations, but it should be noted that the federal government spread numerous falsehoods, as well.
“There’s a whole bunch of work that’s going to have to be done there, but in the short term, it’s really going to be up to the American people to kind of say,” he said.
“Obviously, we saw that during the vaccination stuff,” added Obama, referring to Covid shots.
“So, I am concerned about it. And I think the best we’re going to be able to do is to constantly remind people that this is out there,” he continued.
Every literate citizen who reads beyond the headlines is well aware of “misinformation,” which has been streaming steadily out of the U.S. government for decades.
In May 2022, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) grilled DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, where he challenged his view of the government involving itself in policing information.
“The thing is, is if you are going to go around saying that you’re the arbiter of information and of disinformation, I think you have no clue,” Paul said.
“And you don’t have the perspective of history knowing that disinformation, the largest progenitor of disinformation in our history, has probably been the U.S. government.”