In Stanford speech Obama speaks about misinformation and how it threatens democracy

The energy Thursday morning was palpable on Stanford University’s campus. Students gathered outside GSB’s CEMEX auditorium, their hands gripping tightly to their phones, hoping to capture the moment of a lifetime: a selfie with the former president.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address as part of Stanford’s Cyber Police Institute’s Challenges to Democracy in the Digital Information Realm symposium on Apr. 21.

The 44th President spoke of disinformation’s threat to democracy at home and abroad to a packed auditorium.

“We’re living through another tumultuous, dangerous moment,” he said.

In his speech, Obama contrasted the original internet to today’s online landscape, identified the missteps of social media companies and issued direct calls to action for government, tech companies and Stanford students. 

Addressing the students and Silicon Valley directly, he called for more tech company accountability, arguing that regulation and innovation are not mutually exclusive.

“To the employees of these companies and to the students here at Stanford, who might well be a future employee of these companies, you have the power to move things in the right direction. You can advocate for change,” he said.

In this podcast, we discuss some of the strategies Obama outlined to mitigate the spread of misinformation. Our video looks at the causes for the misinformation, highlighting different points from Obama’s speech. 

Watch the full live stream here


  • Jennah Haque

    Jennah Haque graduated from MIT in 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Data Science, and Economics and a minor in public policy. Having interned at Bloomberg, The Economist, and Crooked Media, Jennah has covered an array of subjects: the COVID-19 crisis, Black Lives Matter Protests, infrastructure, energy, and more. She is passionate about telling underrepresented stories, as well as injecting data and graphics into traditional storytelling. She originally hails from outside the DC area, which spurred her interest for writing and politics. In her free time, she plays field hockey.

  • Natasha Jessen-Petersen

    Natasha Jessen-Petersen spent the past five years as a data analyst working with strategic communications for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, where her reports on communication findings and recommendations were presented and shared with colleagues globally. Prior to her work with UNHCR, Natasha worked for numerous NGOs, such as Amnesty International, wrote for the Danish paper The Murmur, and served as a Teach for America Fellow in New York. Natasha has a Master’s from the University of Copenhagen in Advanced Migration Studies, which she received after graduating magna cum laude from the Tufts University and School of the Museum of Fine Arts Dual Degree Program. Her Honors Thesis at Tufts was awarded the John S. Gibson Award for best undergraduate thesis in International Relations.

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