Prince Harry interviews President Obama on life after the White House and the problems with social media.
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In a rare interview since leaving the U.S. presidency, Barack Obama has issued a warning about the irresponsible use of social media. Mr. Obama told the BBC such actions were distorting people's understanding of complex issues, corroding civil discourse, and spreading misinformation. Mr. Obama did not mention Donald Trump, his successor, by name. But he emphasized that people in positions of leadership should exercise care when posting messages. Barack Obama made the remarks in conversation with Britain's Prince Harry, who was Wednesday's guest editor for The Today Programme on BBC radio. Here are some of the highlights of the interview, starting with life after the White House.
Can I take you back to the 20th of January, 2017? You sat in Marine One, the presidential helicopter, flying over Washington. You sat through the inauguration with your game face on, not giving much emotion away, as we all saw. What was going through your mind?
Yeah the first thing that went through my mind was, sitting across from Michelle, how thankful I was that she had been my partner through that whole process. You know she did this largely in support of my decision to run. And for us to be able to come out of that intact, that marriage was strong, we're still each other's best friends, the sense that there was a completion and that we had done the work in a way that preserved our integrity and left us whole, and that we hadn't fundamentally changed, I think was a satisfying feeling.
You managed to get people to use technology to take real action when you were elected. Part of me wants to ask how you managed that. But at the same time, the social media landscape has changed dramatically. Trolling, extremism, fake news, and cyberbullying are major social issues. Is there more that you could have done as president to get ahead of some of these issues do you think?
Well most of this is happening in the outside of government. And in the United States in particular, we have a very strong First Amendment. I am, as a former constitutional lawyer, pretty firm about the merits of free speech. And the question I think really has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a diversity of views but doesn't lead to a balkanization of our society. And I'm not sure government can legislate that. But what I do believe is that all of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet. One of the dangers of the Internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. A good way of fighting against that is making meet in a pub. Meet at a place of worship. Meet in a neighborhood and get to know each other because the truth is is that on the Internet everything is simplified. And when you meet people face to face, it turns out they're complicated. It's also by the way harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the Internet.
Barack Obama speaking to our temporary correspondent, Prince Harry. And you can hear the full interview on BBC Online.