Sean Spicer told the National newspaper in the United Emirates of Arabia (UAE) that it was tough to put the fake news genie back in the bottle.
Once it went viral, that was it.
A victim of the whirlwind turnover of staff at the top of Donald Trump’s administration; Spicer who is the former communications director of the White House said:
“There’s a potential crisis because so much of what goes out snowballs and goes viral and it’s hard to walk it back,” Mr Spicer says. “You find a lot of times that one little rumour becomes the basis for a lot of speculation and reporting real quick.
“Somebody posts something, everyone goes with it like it’s factual, and it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle.”
During his tenure, and even now, it is clear there are times when the Trump administration jumped the gun on poorly sourced stories.
“I think it’s a two-way street. There are stories we may have jumped on but also stories the media promulgated that weren’t well sourced. The problem is only looked at in one direction.
“To folks in the media, I say ‘let’s look at stuff you got wrong’. There has to be honesty on both sides.”
“The evolution of news has changed dramatically in 10 years, exponentially in 10 months,” Mr Spicer told The National.
“Now there has to be a broader discussion about the balance between a government’s role in the era of social media – what do we regulate, what do we want to do to protect people but also give them the freedom social media has afforded us?
He said at some point, somebody becomes the arbiter.
“If we tell Facebook and Google and Twitter to start policing things, they’ll hire people we don’t know to make those decisions. Are they outsourcing the job to the cheapest source? What’s their degree of accountability?
“We’ll see on Twitter ‘This post is no longer available’. The question is, what did it say? Who decided it had to come down? Was it offensive? Was it false? Who is that umpire? But governments have to realise this is not something they can control.”
And then there is Cambridge Analytica.
The British company is accused of influencing elections around the world, including that of the U.S.A. where it helped Trump’s team.
“We [the Republicans] built a massive data operation,” he says. But he downplays any role played by Cambridge Analytica – “To simplify what happened in the 2016 election to what happened on Facebook would be a mistake” – while he admits there is a wider problem.
“We’ve seen data breaches with credit agencies and government institutions. That’s very concerning,” Mr Spicer says. “We share all this information on social media; who we value, our likes and dislikes.
“What safeguards need to be put in place? Well, we as consumers need to be much more careful about what we put out.”
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