Oprah Winfrey rails against fake news in USC speech

Oprah Winfrey condemned fake news and disinformation in a commencement speech to graduates of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on Friday, imploring students to conquer the "hysteria" that grips national politics and "strike down deceit" wherever they see it.

Winfrey deplored the ways the internet was being used to "erode trust in our institutions, enter fear in our elections and wreak havoc on our infrastructure" — a veiled swipe at Russia-linked propaganda and the social media platforms, like Facebook, on which it spread during the 2016 presidential election.

The modern digital ecosystem, Winfrey said, "enables misinformation to run rampant, attention spans to run short and false stories from phone sites to run circles around major news outlets."

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Oprah delivers commencement speech at USC
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Oprah delivers commencement speech at USC
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Media producer Oprah Winfrey addresses The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Oprah Winfrey attends the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Commencement ceremony at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Media producer Oprah Winfrey addresses The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Oprah Winfrey attends the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Commencement ceremony at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Commencement ceremony at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Commencement ceremony at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Commencement ceremony at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Media producer Oprah Winfrey addresses The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Media producer Oprah Winfrey addresses The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
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Winfrey's commencement address, by turns galvanizing and lighthearted, recalled the speech she delivered at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in January — impassioned remarks about racial injustice, gender inequality and the #MeToo movement that stirred speculation about her White House ambitions.

She nodded to that speculation in her address on Friday, joking that she hesitated to tell the USC graduates about the importance of voting and civic participation because "the rumors from my last big speech have finally died down."

But she nonetheless waded into politics, calling on the graduates to "overcome the sniping at one another, the trolling, the mean-spirited partisanship on both sides of the aisle, the divisiveness, the injustices, the out-and-out hatred."

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Michelle Obama at DNC
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Michelle Obama at DNC
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25: First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama waves while arriving on stage during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Monday, July 25, 2016. The Democratic National Committee gloated as Republicans struggled to project unity during the party's national convention, but they are now facing a similar problem after their leader resigned on the eve of their own gathering. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Monday, July 25, 2016. The Democratic National Committee gloated as Republicans struggled to project unity during the party's national convention, but they are now facing a similar problem after their leader resigned on the eve of their own gathering. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Philadelphia, PA. On Monday, July 25, day one of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, held at the Wells Fargo Center, First Lady Michelle Obama waves goodbye, after speaking to Delegates and guests.. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: A delegate listens to First Lady Michelle Obama at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: First Lady Michelle Obama arrives to address the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama smiles before speaking during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Monday, July 25, 2016. The Democratic National Committee gloated as Republicans struggled to project unity during the party's national convention, but they are now facing a similar problem after their leader resigned on the eve of their own gathering. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25: First lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: First Lady Michelle Obama walks off stage after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Monday, July 25, 2016. The Democratic National Committee gloated as Republicans struggled to project unity during the party's national convention, but they are now facing a similar problem after their leader resigned on the eve of their own gathering. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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"If they go low — thank you, Michelle Obama — we go to the polls," she said of elected officials, paraphrasing former first lady Michelle Obama's oft-quoted words at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. "People died for that right. I think about it every time I cast a vote, so don't let their sacrifice be in vain."

Winfrey, 64, did not directly address President Donald Trump, and she made it explicitly clear that the young journalists seated in the auditorium must "use what you've learned to challenge the left, challenge the right, and the center."

The world-famous media mogul was introduced by Willow Bay, the dean of the Annenberg school and the wife of Disney CEO Robert Iger. Winfrey, who is widely described as Iger's good friend, reportedly pushed him to run for president in 2020 before he decided against it.

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