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Barack Obama warns Facebook and Google to check themselves

"They're not just an invisible platform, they're shaping our culture in powerful ways."

Barack Obama from Jan. 5, 2016 delivering remarks about federal gun control.
Cheriss May, NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Friday, former president Barack Obama spoke for an hour at the MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. But his speech wasn't just about sports analytics. He talked at length about the role social media companies have in our political divide 

"I do think the large platforms — Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem—have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise," said Obama. "They're not just an invisible platform, they're shaping our culture in powerful ways.

Audio from Obama's off-the-record speech was posted by the online Libertarian magazine Reason.

"Essentially we now have entirely different realities that are being created with not just different opinions, but now different facts," he said.

Obama referenced how Fox News and The New York Times don't describe the same thing.

"In some cases, they don't even talk about the same thing. And so it is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances."

When it comes to government intervention of social media companies, he noted that other countries like China have government-controlled media.

"That's not who we are, and that's not the society I want to live in."

Though, he does think the government should have "rules of the road" to create a level playing field.