Google and Facebook aren’t just incredibly profitable tech companies — they are “public goods” with a responsibility to serve the public, says Barack Obama.
“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,” the former president said at MIT’s Sloan Sports Conference last Friday. “They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”
Obama described Facebook and Google as a duopoly. He also said they were contributing to a fractured media environment that allowed users to construct alternate realities, without a common set of facts.
“We have to have a serious conversation about, what are the business models, the algorithms, the mechanisms, whereby we can create more of a common conversation,” he said. “And that can not just be a commercially driven conversation.”
Obama didn’t explicitly call for more regulation of the big internet companies — and made a point of saying he was opposed to the heavy regulation that China places on internet companies and other media outlets. But his comments do come amid an increasing drumbeat of criticism of Facebook and Google.
His comments haven’t been public until now because organizers of the Sloan conference restricted press coverage of his appearance, for reasons which remain unclear. But you can now hear full audio of his hour-long appearance via a recording published by Reason.com, which also has a write-up of Obama’s talk.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.