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  • So Kara Swisher is one of the leading voices in journalists in the US when it comes to

  • big tech and its connection with power and politics. She has covered Silicon Valley and

  • the major players that have made the industry as powerful as it is today, with big tech

  • becoming a major influence in today's political world. It's important to understand where

  • we are and where the industry is going. Now let's hear from Kara herself. Think of Kara

  • and welcome Villers writing it out, because I think all of always could say it. Very good.

  • Social media obviously played a big role in the preparation of storming the Capitol. Do

  • you agree? January six is kind of the 9/11 for social media.

  • Well, I don't know, I think it's a 9/11. You know, it's not I don't want to compare those

  • crisis's, you know, because that was the amount of the amount of deaths that that thing was

  • really quite amazing. But it was it is a moment to reflect on the impact of not just social

  • media, but media in general on on on getting people amplified and weaponized. And I think

  • that's really what it was in a lot of, you know, look, Donald Trump being down at the

  • down at the White House, yelling at them to do that was just as important as what had

  • prepared them to feel that way and act once. He said, you know, gave the go word, essentially.

  • And so what these people have been doing is they've been inhaling and and been flooded

  • with all kinds of misinformation, lies a lot by Donald Trump, but a lot everywhere. And

  • so they've been surrounded by lies. And therefore, when he said, go fix it, it was he had soften

  • them up. He and others had soften them up to do what they did. And I don't think people

  • I do think people have free will. But when you get into a mindset and you believe it

  • because you're surrounded by media, that's telling you that what's happening is being

  • taken to it's not as confusing to understand why they did what they did. You know, they

  • look like idiots, but are they or are they people that were just incredibly manipulated?

  • And that's something obviously Germans know about really well. And so this idea of constant

  • reaffirmation of things that are untrue created the situation that led to that for sure.

  • OK, so let's stick with the tech industry for a moment. You think they're all complicit

  • in allowing the storming to occur? Are you here? I think I lost you. A single

  • lost to. So here we are again, sorry for that. So we

  • had some some technical problems, obviously. So my question is, you get it. OK, let's maybe

  • we can go back. OK, go ahead. What do you want me to go back? I just wanted you to know.

  • So I wanted to go back to the big tech industry frozen again. And now it's so interesting

  • to people. Is the tech industry that all complicit in allowing the storming to occur? What's

  • your what's your take on that? Yeah, I think one thing that you have to separate

  • is two things. They may have done the right thing by by platforming Donald Trump at this

  • moment, but everything has led up to it has been because they haven't done anything and

  • they have allowed everything to go on, including all this misinformation, including the behavior

  • of Donald Trump and his minions. You know what I mean? It's it's an entire network where

  • misinformation bubbles up and bubbles back down. And so, yes, the way they built their

  • platforms has caused this situation to happen, giving them kudos for finally doing the right

  • thing. I'm not sure you got a kudos for doing the right thing, which is in this case, it's

  • the correct answer. But it also points the fact that how much power these companies have

  • and way too much power, that sometimes they make the right decision. But boy, do we not

  • like that. It took two companies to shut this down, just two people. And that's problematic

  • in this country. Do they have to rethink their whole model?

  • I mean, is there kind of also taking over all these conspiracy theories? And, you know,

  • would you say that and how? Well, you know, everyone's sort of like, how

  • could this happen? Everything was built this way. The way it is built is the way it is

  • behaving because it reflects humanity. And anytime humanity gets any kind of tool like

  • this, the abuse of it is usually right away. And so I think one of the things that's built

  • around advertising, it's built around engagement, it's not built around community, even though

  • they say it is. And so therefore, what has happened is what should happen, because this

  • is this is the kind of tools they build. And so the question is, is their engagement

  • oriented business plan a good business plan in this way, in this highly politicized age?

  • And also if engagement along with addiction of these platforms and things like that lead

  • to this enragement is not really a business we need to be in, and it leads to enragement

  • inevitably and not to the the better outcomes that they say they could lead to it, doesn't

  • it? There's so much proof of where this goes,

  • but it is their business model. So what how could they change that?

  • Well, you can imagine like I could think about, you know, TV has a business model of advertising

  • and you could have you know, you saw the movie network, you know, you could make it into

  • if it was the only thing people were getting and they were getting the individual messages

  • aligned to them, you could see how that could be because, well, we have we have government

  • entities that control the airwaves in some way. And there are there's there's there's

  • lawsuits that happen when you break a rule. And in this case, the Internet industry doesn't

  • have any laws governing them and therefore they can do whatever they want. Every other

  • major media, as much as we go on about freedom of speech here, every media has some strictures

  • on it. And we have to figure out what the strictures are for this media.

  • And it's going to have to come from government, not from them, because they can't sell self-regulation.

  • So, Carol, we often talk about we need more regulation on these big, big, overpowerful

  • companies that were actually allowed to become so big in the past. Like maybe we can focus

  • or talk a little bit about the mistakes which are happening now. You know, maybe you can

  • give us a couple of examples of where governments need to be taking action right now that we

  • don't kind of run into the same situation. Well, the European Union has, you know, Margaret

  • Vestager and others have tried on lots of different things, not just not just around

  • speech, but actually around power. And that's what this is about. Like, let's just be it's

  • like not about speech. Every all the right wing goes on or about speech and they never

  • shut up. That's a fascinating kind of development, is that they talk about being censored and

  • you can't stop listening. You can't they never stop broadcasting. So I think it's an issue

  • of that. There's not been any regulation and the regulation should be around market concentration,

  • market power, because with innovation and the ability to have more companies, you have

  • more voices. It solves the problem. If you don't have two companies in charge, one company

  • in charge of social media, one company in charge of search, one company in charge of

  • commerce, you're going to inevitably lead to abuses. And then the lack of innovation

  • means the lack of voices. And so we need regulation, you know, around privacy. We need regulation

  • around liability for some of these companies, et cetera, et cetera. And so there's there

  • aren't any rules. That's like in 20 years there's there's one rule that helps them.

  • And so I don't mean to say we should get rid of Section 230, which is that is the one that's

  • always controversial. But we need to reform it because it was it was done at a time when

  • these are international laws. Explain to our international audience what

  • that is. Section 230 is a law that was part of another

  • act that largely was declared unconstitutional, but not this part of it, which gives broad

  • immunity to Internet platforms for third party material on there. You know, so they're not

  • liable for everything everybody says on Facebook that would just put it out of business instantly.

  • Facebook was not in existence when this happened, by the way. It was way before any of these

  • companies. And so it was because if these companies were not really media, but they

  • weren't really platforms. And so how do you how do you protect them from being sued out

  • of business? Well, now they've used that to grow to great proportions and not had enough

  • responsibility around what's on their platforms. And so it suggests you don't have responsibility.

  • And so now we have to sort of move the responsibly back to these very wealthy companies, because

  • each of these companies is now the biggest companies in the world. Now, they're not nascent.

  • They are powerful. They are the most powerful, the richest. Their owners are the richest

  • people in the world. And therefore, the rule has to be rewritten for the reality of the

  • situation today. But there are so powerful. Do you think this

  • will really happen? Well, John D. Rockefeller was powerful. Somehow

  • they got him in, you know what I mean? They ran. Everybody in government is the only solution

  • in this case because, you know, consumer pressure is important. Media pressure is important.

  • Grassroots activists efforts is important. But the only thing that's going to rein these

  • people in is the government. And you know what? We got rid of AT&T. We had Microsoft,

  • we got John D. Rockefeller, Big Oil. It's the trains. This is something that's, you

  • know, Teddy Roosevelt was a trustbuster. And therefore, there is a way to to do this. And

  • there's a history in this government, this company country, of doing that. So two people

  • say they're too powerful. Well, you know, so are a lot of people.

  • You just mentioned Margaret Vestager, you you, commissioner, she's probably the most

  • powerful woman in the world when it comes to her. If you would be in her shoes for one

  • day, which executive order? Now, what what would you do?

  • Like doing all the things? I think sometimes she goes a little far, but that's OK. You

  • know, I think Europe has a very different idea about privacy in the U.S. does, I think

  • First Amendment issues. You can't do a lot of things in the U.S. that she's allowed to

  • do. The First Amendment does get in the way with government. You know, it's very clear

  • government she'll make you know, Congress shall make no law governing freedom of speech.

  • So among other things. And so you have to work within those boundaries here. But in

  • her case, she has power in Europe and the areas she's regulating. She doesn't have power

  • in the U.S. And these companies are largely U.S. based companies. And so it has to be

  • the U.S. government, not the state governments. California has been trying to do has done

  • a privacy bill. California is the one leading a lot of this legislation around all the Internet

  • companies, whether it's Uber or anybody else. So it has to come from the, ah, the U.S. federal

  • government to govern U.S. companies. And even though we're in a global society and these

  • are global companies, are U.S. companies, and so it has to come from here. So I don't

  • know what else she can do except continue when they move over into her area to regulate

  • them and then maybe set the tone like GDP did for the rest of the world.

  • What do you expect from the incoming Biden administration regarding these topics we're

  • just talking about? I think it's going to be bipartisan. There's

  • a lot of people knowing that this is a problem. I think there'll be more action. Although,

  • you know, it's interesting, I was waiting for lawsuits. The Justice Department antitrust

  • lawsuit suing the Obama administration never happened. Trump is Trump's bill. Barr is the

  • one who started the who initiated the Google. The FTC in this era is moving against Facebook.

  • Now, these things take a while to do, but I do see people like David Cicilline and some

  • others on the Hill being really active in terms of figuring out what to do here. And

  • I don't think the bottom is I think my decision is, is as much as they get called socialist,

  • they're very centrist. They're very accommodating to the middle. And so I don't expect to see

  • enormous amounts. I think the antitrust lawsuits will go on. They'll be more they'll be fines,

  • there'll be regulations, etc. And that's where you're going to see. I think Trump tried to

  • do it in weird ways, but like attack tactic talk. But he didn't really because he was

  • so superficial. He just like to type out executive orders that were badly written and had no

  • had no force, no force of law. And so I think it has to be a bipartisan effort by a lot

  • of people to just the way all the other regulations of big companies were. And then that's and

  • to remove the politics out of it and talk about the body politic of this country and

  • how badly they're hurt by this power. And if we if we do it in terms of power and not

  • partisanship, everybody gets that. There's not a Republican or Democrat to understand

  • too much power in the hands of too few people leads to abuses, no matter how nice those

  • people are, you know, and usually they're not so nice.

  • Some of them aren't so nice. Why was Chancellor Angela Merkel wrong about

  • banning Trump on Twitter? You know, I think she I was surprised by that.

  • I'm not sure it was really odd because I. I was like, you know, he he lies almost incessantly,

  • he's using a forum, not a public forum, a private forum. I'm not sure that was, you

  • know, look, Twitter and Facebook are private companies that can do whatever they want.

  • For some reason. I think she thinks the public square and they're not their private money

  • making institution and companies and and I and they can do whatever they please. I think

  • what she was talking about was that that newsworthy figures deserve to be heard all the time.

  • But you know what I always said about Donald Trump, I'm like, it's not like he lived in

  • a house. You know, we're downstairs. There was a podium that reached every media outlet

  • in the world. This guy had plenty of chances to do that. And in this case, he just violated

  • the rules of a several different companies, one too many times. I don't think it's more

  • complex than that. Why did you say that?

  • I don't know, you ask her, I was I want to ask her. I didn't even understand it. I don't

  • think she was. I think she thinks so. The public square. And that's what she was talking

  • about. Don't shut down the public square. I'm like, sure. Don't it's not shut down.

  • The public square is not shut down. Donald Trump is shut down on Twitter and Facebook

  • at a time of crisis because he was fomenting sedition and inciting violence. Very bright

  • red line. I wonder which he said if he had said something about pornography, child pornography

  • or something like, oh, no, let's leave that up to like they they he violated rules of

  • their platform multiple times. And then he did it at the very wrong time again. And they

  • had had it they had given him huge amounts of space to make mistakes.

  • And he continued to abuse that privilege card to challenge you a little bit in that regard.

  • So on the one hand, you say there are far too powerful to say, but they still should

  • have the power to regulate and ban I'm talking about.

  • So shouldn't I think there should be more of them? There should be more of them. So

  • people have options, right? That's what I'm talking. Do you have to separate out the two?

  • There's there's if they made the right decision the moment based on the fact they're private

  • companies, this guy violated at the time. They don't want to have terrorism on their

  • hands. Right. They don't want to have facilitated terrorism. And that's what this was. And so

  • they can make that business decision in the moment. I don't I think they have that. But

  • the fact that it was two people that stopped it and that's the only two people we could

  • go to is the problem. And so you have to separate in the in the in the anger of the moment,

  • you have to separate out what the problem is. The problem ultimately is power, too much

  • power in the hands of too few. That said, they did the right thing. You know

  • what I mean? It's hard to like. I don't know. But they're the only people we could go to.

  • If there were dozens of places, it wouldn't have had the impact. But it was one place.

  • Right. And so that's the problem is one or two people, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey

  • had the on this case. It was someone else that Twitter had the power to shut something

  • down. That's scary to anybody who thinks about power.

  • Thank you, lost kind of a question. I mean, do you are journalist yourself and to know

  • that you've experienced that yourself? I'm sure this country here is like people are

  • living really in two worlds. I mean, I've never seen this country being not only so

  • divided, but I mean, when I talk to two people, they have totally different information and

  • takes. Yeah. What does all that mean for democracies? I think you think we were together before.

  • We weren't. I don't think we were. I think that people talk about that a lot. I'm it's

  • just what's happened is a lot of people have that information, Diet Sprite, and that's

  • used to have three networks. And that was what everybody consumed. Right. By the way,

  • those three networks were run by 16 men on the Upper East Side of New York, all of whom

  • are white and rich. So I'm not so sure that was great. Right. In this case, it's bad information

  • diets is what's happening. And just like our obesity crisis, people are eating bad food.

  • They're fat and they're dying of hypertension or whatever, their diabetes or this and that.

  • So I do think you think we were more together than you were than we were? I don't think

  • we were at all. I think we just weren't hearing from those people. I think they were down

  • somewhere else where they weren't able to communicate with each other. And now they

  • share information, a lot of which is dangerous and bad. And that's the problem, I think,

  • really. But I think this idea that the US was always one big happy country is not a

  • country I lived in for a long time. And so I think it's just you can see it now. You

  • can see it because it's all people Instagram, the revolution that the revolution called

  • revolution, the insurrection, the coup, the people of broadcasting the coup. But they

  • thought that before and they did have distrust for government. And Donald Trump just scratched

  • an itch that was already there. But I was down there at the mall on January

  • six, you know, and so many people are just convinced that the elections were stolen,

  • that they're all that because of. And then I asked them, so where do you get your information

  • from? Oh, you know, the Internet from my Facebook. Oops. Yeah, that's new, right?