Obama warns of private companies like Facebook being ‘detached from potential social consequences’

Obama warns of private companies like Facebook being ‘detached from potential social consequences’
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Former President Obama said Thursday that private businesses should work with the government to develop products so they avoid being disconnected from social consequences.

"Too often, at least in the United States, there's a tendency for business leaders to say, 'Let's just avoid the government as much as we can,'" Obama told Swedish billionaire entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom during an interview, according to the Associated Press.

"That strategy can work for a time, but eventually — as I think Facebook has now discovered — you’re going to have to engage," he said.

Facebook has faced increasing government and public pressure in the U.S. and abroad to alter its platform to better fit various people's wishes. 


In particular, the company has been working to crack down on information it deems to be false, announcing earlier this month it is developing technology to filter out photos and videos it finds misleading.

While Obama said Thursday that he believes Facebook's ability to connect people is "potentially extraordinarily valuable and can be positive," he said it suffered from being created privately. 

"But what is also true is that those systems were built in isolation [by private companies] detached from potential social consequences," he explained.

Obama urged business leaders to engage governments "more directly" to keep politicians appraised of new technologies to avoid the trouble Facebook has found itself in.

Some have supported Facebook's greater cooperation with various governments.

Republicans and Democrats have complained about foreign manipulation of social media sites, particularly when elections are involved. 

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg said the day he announced the company's efforts to root out false images and videos that Facebook is better prepared to fight off fake accounts trying to spread division and untruths.

Zuckerberg embraced the move as a wider attempt to work towards a social good, saying, "This effort is part of a broader challenge to rework much of how Facebook operates to be more proactive about protecting our community from harm and taking a broader view of our responsibility overall."

Critics of efforts to regulate social media content by private companies, let alone in tandem with the government, have said efforts to fight misinformation curb free speech.