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Barack Obama isn’t happy with Facebook and Google, either

He wants them to “have to have a conversation about their business model.”

President Barack Obama Addresses An Audience At The Stavors Niarchos Cultural Centre
Barack Obama delivering a speech in 2016
Milos Bicanski / Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

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, which also has a write-up of Obama’s talk.

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