Leaders must not promote division online, Obama tells Prince Harry

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Former US president Barack Obama says the way people communicate via social media risks splintering society, and leaders must ensure the Internet does not cocoon users in their biases.

Key points:

  • The Prince interviewed Mr Obama for the BBC Radio 4 Today program
  • They focused on their shared interest in promoting causes
  • There was no confirmation Harry would invite the Obamas to his wedding

Mr Obama said in an interview with Britain's Prince Harry, broadcast on BBC radio on Wednesday, that social media should promote diverse views in a way that "doesn't lead to a Balkanisation of our society".

"All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the Internet," Mr Obama said.

"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."

Mr Obama has previously warned that social media platforms can lead people to make snap judgements about complex decisions although he has refrained from criticising his successor Donald Trump who regularly uses Twitter.

He said in the interview broadcast that moving online communities offline helped people to see that many issues were not as simple as they might seem in a chatroom.

"It's also, by the way, harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the Internet," he said.

Mr Obama spoke to Prince Harry in an interview conducted by his royal highness as a guest editor for BBC radio's daily morning news show and focused on their shared interest in promoting causes.

Prince Harry was asked by the BBC whether he would invite the Obamas to his wedding next year with US actress Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry hands Michelle Obama the basketball

"I don't know about that," he said.

"We haven't put the invites or the guest list together.

"Who knows whether they are going to be invited or not. I wouldn't want to ruin that surprise."

The Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday that British government officials had urged Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding for fear of angering Mr Trump.

Reuters

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