Mark Cuban, Maria Ressa & Julia Ioffe Talk 2022's Insanity | The Problem With Jon Stewart Podcast
All right, everybody, welcome to the podcast. It's The Problem with me. The Problem. It's a special end of the year extravaganza. A wrap up fest-palooza? I don't know what you're going to call it, but we're very delighted to have a panel of friends of the show.
You may recognize them from the Apple TV+ show, the podcast or life and the news. We've got entrepreneur and co-founder of Cost Plus Drugs, Mark Cuban. What's up, Jon? Cost Plus Drugs. Welcome, sir. That— - Thank you, sir. - That's— That's a wonderful introduction.
Journalist CEO of Rappler and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, - Maria Ressa is joining us from the Philippines. - Hello. Yes. Oh Maria it's so delightful to see you again. And founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck, Julia Ioffe is also going to be joining us. I want to ask you guys — it's hard not to just start with the main news. Have all of you been suspended from Twitter and and should we just pool our money and buy it? And when I say pool our money, I mean, Mark, will you buy it? Yeah I kind of figured.
It's Elon’s company. Elon gets to do what Elon wants to do. He played. He paid price for admission. You know, win, lose or draw. We'll find out. Yeah. It's kind of nice to see it in this arbitrary, pernicious—
- state. - You mean that free speech absolutism? - Is that what you mean Jon? - That’s exactly— - OK. - I believe that’s what I meant. By the way, he who controls the chalkboard controls the absolutism. Now, the person that I think has the most at stake here, if we're being honest, is Maria Ressa, who faces censorship and the penalty of imprisonment in the Philippines. And so it's very easy for us to sit here and watch glibly. But for Maria, I'm assuming this is a chilling bit of turn of events.
I think it's both chilling and instructional. You know, it really shows you the basic question is why does one rich man have that much power over the public sphere globally? You know, and it has never happened this way in the past and this platform in particular, because of its design, is global in scope. So that's and I think this is part of what we've been trying to point out, is that in the medium term to just try to fix everything that is wrong, fix the information ecosystem, which means stop what social media has done, put guardrails on these and what is happening on Twitter is a perfect example why you need this.
Well, that's it. So, Mark, you know this cat, Mark, - you know, you know Elon, your excited to - A little bit, yeah. to see him take it over because you thought he could use but it's pretty clear that there's a fine line between being a disruptor - and being a the utterly narcissistic anarchist— - The king. Yeah, the king. - sanctimonious nut bag. - Dictator. What the fuck happened? It's Rupert Murdoch on a different platform.
You know, it's always been this way. It's not. It's not something new. It's always been this way. Walter Cronkite decided what went on his show. You know, Rupert Murdoch has been for corporate advocacy since Rupert Murdoch was born. You know, there's there's just it's just a different platform.
And so we're starting to understand and look and even with the Twitter files, with, you know, even though there was no there there, we got insight into how Twitter worked and their decision making process. And while they tried to stick to their terms of service, there's always going to be a gray area where decisions are made about information. And so we're just getting you know, in this particular case, the guy making the sausage is showing his recipe, even though he's saying he's making cupcakes, he's making it hotdogs.
Right? And we're getting to see how they're made. Mark, have you had breakfast yet? Because it seems to me that a lot of these food analogies may be based on you— Right here! There you go baby! That's what I'm talking about. My Alyssa's Healthy Cookies.
Aw that's delightful. Julia, as a journalist, you've also got to be thinking to yourself, “What if I don't know where the mines are buried,” “I don't know where not to step.” “And my entire job is based on not treading lightly, but walking into this.” The problem is, you know, he made a big deal of Twitter files showing the corruption within the decision making process of moderating this free speech town square platform. I would bet you a Twitter files from the last 24 hours would be a tiny release because it would just be, “Elon, what should we do?” Answer: “Fuck these guys. Get them all done.”
He just shut down Twitter spaces because one of those journalists confronted him on the fact that he didn't dox Elon, he was just reporting on it. So, Julia, what for a... Forget about guardrails. Where's the map? What's the rule? The road here? Well, I do think it's interesting that these self-declared free speech absolutists are absolute and protecting their own speech. Right. It's it's free speech for them, but for really nobody else, especially if it's speech criticizing them, then that's really, really out of bounds.
Look, I think that it's always been a Twitter has always been a fraught space for journalists. And I imagine that there are a lot of editors that are watching this with some relief. And then they're like, - “Oh, good, you know, just blow this thing up” - Interesting. “and let's just not have any journalists on Twitter.” Because Twitter has given so many editors, so many of our bosses.
Such, you know, shpilkes in the genechtagazoink - because— - Wow. - Because— - Let me just let me just stop you right there. What a beautiful tribute to Hanukkah, coming up. - Was to have— - Oh my God. I thought my grandparents just jumped on and said something. - There is a punim that is smile. - That is very shayna
There you go. It's Linda Richman. - Anyway— - But you bring up a great point. Right, because they were always freaking out that we were saying things that would compromise our objectivity or that would get us in trouble.
And I've gotten in trouble on there a fair amount of times. And there were there was so much hand-wringing in on kind of in editorial that I think the public didn't see. And I think there's a lot of there are a lot of editors that are just hoping that this thing just blows up. And this way it'll look like it's not that that the editors are kind of turning the screws on their journalists, which they've been doing for years, by the way, including at publications like The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, but that it'll look like Big Bad Elon Musk has come down, has come out and shut down Twitter for journalists and they were trying to protect free speech. Well, let's go — let's flip it on its head. You know, you could also say that journalists and editors and publications are just upset that they've lost the gatekeeping powers that had formerly been invested in them and that they had wielded that authority perniciously and in a partizan way.
And so this is the revenge of the revenge of the free speech libertarians. But on the flip side of that, couldn't you make a case that Twitter blowing up is a good thing for journalists because they're so wedded to its circadian rhythm as though it's news that journalists have turned this space into reality when in fact Twitter is not reality. Well, I think it emerged I think it became a really important platform because of journalists, because and because of people who acted like they were journalists. It was a kind of newsfeed and a bespoke newsfeed for a lot of people. - A crowd sourced formed of journalists. - But only for journalists. - Yeah— - Only for journalists, right? Because, you know, I don't necessarily agree that this is good for journalists.
In one respect, it's good because everybody wants to hate the king and they get to do it in their own way, right? So everybody unifies in that perspective. But the other side of the coin is everything is long tail. You know, the beauty of Twitter is you're able to accumulate followers, right? It's not algorithmically driven. Yes. And build a brand on there. Yeah and you're able to to find your brand. It's not like TikTok. We're all algorithmic and followers don't really have an impact.
It's very much chronological and it's very much follower driven where, you know, everybody out there In the early days of Twitter when it evolved from being a social medium, “Hey, what are you doing at South by Southwest tonight?” To... “Hey, let's get my news.” Or “Let me promote something.” Now, it's very much it's very different and it's very brand driven. I think it actually created a lot of journalists and opened and kind of leveled the playing field and allowed a lot of people into the profession, not just of journalism, but comedy, other kinds of storytelling that wouldn't have made it into these traditionally very elite spaces that are very hard to break into. That's one.
And then back to your original question to turn it back on its head again. You know, Elon bought this platform in part because conservatives were saying, you know, “Us being shadow banned on Twitter,” “Us being demoted on Twitter is a violation of our First Amendment rights.” And liberals, ironically, were saying, “Well, is this a private company?” “They can do whatever they want,” and they were saying— I think you’re giving Elon too much credit. Yeah, I think you're giving Elon too much credit. Well, but so— So hold on.
But no, no, but but what whether that was his thought process or not. But now that he owns it, now conservatives are saying, “Well, now it's a private company.” “He can do whatever he wants.”
And it's not a First Amendment right, right? So now it turns out, again, they're not free speech absolutists. - Yeah. - Well, like everything else, it becomes a tit for tat ownership over libs or conservatives. But my point is more this. Isn't it a problem if journalists view the ranking of trends on Twitter... If aren't you outsourcing your editorial authority by just and I do think journalists have done this and newsrooms have done this, they scan Twitter and they look at the trend and they look at how it's ranked and they decide, “Oh, that's the top story.”
That's the most important thing going on in the world right now. That's the urgency. And you see how it influences coverage.
I mean, it's more than that, right? Like, so I would disagree with something Mark said that it isn't just Elon kind of, you know, being the owner and the gatekeeper of this. These are his rules. So he exercises the power media used to exercise. We never could exercise this kind of power because the power of technology is significantly different from traditional media, where we all saw the same thing, where our live we were cloned. As you know, we're data privacy is thrown out the door and algorithms of amplification determine actually on Twitter in particular, lies spread at least six times faster than really boring facts. So from the very beginning— Wait that's been quantified at six times, Maria? - Six times? - This is — Yeah, This is an MIT study from 2018.
Lies read at least six times faster than facts on social media. And then you add on top of that that, you know, it is the kind of weaknesses of it, the way it was set up to basically keep you scrolling. Right. Because that's the end goal of this. - Keep scrolling so the platform makes money. - Sure. It's monetized by engagement and the amount of time you spend on it.
- That’s how they make the money. - And it has actually gotten rid of you— know, it has atomized meaning and given flattened what engagement even means. But because it just wants to make money out of us, it has come in, used our biology against us, used to like insidiously manipulated our emotion and a system of advertising and marketing that was once advertising and marketing has now been used for political power and geopolitical power. So this is insidious manipulation and this is now a behavior modification system and we're - Pavlov's dogs and where is this OK? - Boom! Sorry. This is like- - Maria Ressa - This is what I wrote a book about you know. - I'm so- -I'm so down with this, I'm going to go even further.
Twitter is the opiate of the people. - No, absolutely, no Facebook yes. - it is a the masses and having reporters being corrupted by it. Facebook, yes. Because I think that survey alluded to Facebook and not to Twitter, right, because Twitter really didn't have as much weight in 2018. It was Facebook and yes, you know- - No it was Twitter, it was Twitter. - we saw before - Oh was it? Okay. - It was actually on Twitter, yes.
It was an MIT study done by Sinan Aral and then the guy who was formerly a CTO of Twitter. - But it happens on every social media. - Right. No, but Mark, you have the money, so tell us. Yeah, I know what Elon’s thinking, right? It's a toy, you buy different things, you know, you can afford different things. But at the same time, I think we saw this all before with Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Right.
This is not new. Right. This is something that's happened before. And that's why I analogized it to Rupert Murdoch in different platforms. Rupert Murdoch bought what he needed in order to have an impact. Right.
He didn't just say, okay, we'll just let the audience take us where it goes. He was very specific in what he was trying to accomplish. - And I don't- - Well I would say isn't Elon? Because he said, I want Ron DeSantis for president. - Yeah. - He said it.
He has a political goal. And I think tomorrow it could be somebody different. I think Elon is being Elon because he wants that, you know, he bought a new toy. He's concerned about the economics. He's trying to figure out a way where he can have his impact and be the king while at the same time paying his bills. And as an entrepreneur, that's a process.
So what we're doing, I've started a lot of companies and I'm a ready, fire, aim entrepreneur, right? It's like, okay, I got a— I can visualize where I want it to go. I don't know exactly how I'm going to get there. That's exactly what Elon is doing right now. He wants to be the king. He doesn't know exactly how he's going to get there. If Joe Biden said, Elon, you're exactly right, we're going to make you the de facto communications protocol in a standard that'll make you the ultimate the TCPIP of communications right, of news and information communications.
He would love Joe Biden. Oh, that's interesting. But here's a couple of things though on that, Mark. One is you can be good at Twitter or you can own Twitter, but you can't be both. And I think you cannot be a participant in the system.
You have to maintain some sort of neutrality as it goes along, especially given the fact that this is a monopoly. There is no viable competitor to Twitter we've seen. Go to Post.news, go to Post.news. You know, it's not yet, right.
Listen you can go to Mastodon and Parler and Post.news and all these places. - It's like saying I dont wanna- - There isn't until there is. - Right. There isn't until there is that's. - Right. But let me ask you then, if this is Shark Tank, are you in or out? Is Twitter an investment right now for you? Depends on the valuation. Right.
Or Post, is Post an investment. Yeah, you know what I would do Post. Yes, I would do Post. Now they want a $250 million valuation. So I would question that because I think that's way too high for where it's at. But yeah, I think Post has got a shot because as long- Think about that though, $250 million.
$250 million to $44 billion. What about Mastodon? Mastodon I didn't like. Mastodon was too hard to use. Mastodon -- with all the different servers and distribution. It wasn't intuitive. Whereas Post.news is. Now, the question for Post.news and the competitors is how will they exercised their editorial strength? Right.
At what point will they start to say, No, you can't post this? And that'll define where it goes because- Well are you 4Chan or are you 8Chan or are you Reddit, or are you, I mean moderation is always a complex issue, but Julia I notice, you shook your head a little bit when I was talking about how Twitter itself had corrupted, as Maria and I were sort of commiserating on behavior modification that I thought Twitter had corrupted journalists and a news model because it seduced them into likes and followers and that they allowed the trends to, and the circadian rhythm of the trends to be real life when it's not. But I saw you shook your head a little bit in disapproval. So where do you disagree with that? Oh, that's just the Jewish way of agreeing. No, I'm kidding.
Oh, my goodness. No, actually. No. So no, actually, I mean, I think that's, that's true.
- And I think that Donald Trump understood that, you know, in his bones- - Better than anybody - and was able to manipulate the shit out of that. And that's why he was, it was like, you know, he turned the press into, you know, like a dog with a bone any time he tweeted, That's right. the news cycle would shift, would shift right. He understood the behavior modification. On the other hand, I'm, I have not been a journalist who covers that kind of stuff.
And Twitter has been something else for me. So when- It does have value, there's no question. It does. Right. And so, for example, when Putin invaded Ukraine and even now there is great value in Twitter abroad.
Right. And it does serve as a great resource tool and a great news feed. Julia, I just want to, I just, first of all, I want to thank you for throwing more Yiddish into the podcast than we’ve had all year. - Second of all- - Oh, my goodness. -I just want, I want to thank you for the most natural segway I think we could possibly imagine on any kind of a podcast. And that's, let's move into that.
You know, because the other obviously huge story in the world right now is Putin and Ukraine and, you know, I'm going to also put the Grassroots Revolution and protest that we're seeing in Iran. And Twitter is invaluable for those who are powerless against a regime. Unfortunately, the regime can also kind of reverse engineer it at some points. But Julia, I'll ask you, moving away from the Twitter aspect of it, are you heartened by Ukraine standing fast against Russia? Do you feel that this will be an escalation or has the West provoked this, as some critics have said? Where do you stand right now on Ukraine? Russia? Oh, my God. That is so many questions. - But before I get into that, I do want to say that I- - Yeah, I do that.
and I think Maria would probably feel similarly is that a lot of our and Lydia Polgreen at The New York Times has written about this really well. I think that when we talk about social media, we talk about it in a very insular way, just as it applies to the U.S. and social media abroad, especially in authoritarian or in semi authoritarian regimes, plays a very different role. - That's right, - For example- - And overseas, they have more guardrails on social media than they do here. - Well, yeah. - There's a lot more in Europe and India. - But also- - yes, but it also so for example, when we were debating in the U.S.
whether you could, whether we should allow political ads on Facebook, everybody here said, oh, obviously it's a no brainer. We should not allow political ads on Facebook. The Russian opposition, when it existed, said, "wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, that's our only way to get ads out to the population because we are complete- We have no access to television. The Kremlin controls all of that. We have no access to the airwaves at all. All we have is Facebook and social media."
So it's, when you make a blanket policy based on the U.S., you know, it's too wide of a brush. I mean, that's Elon's failing, too, because, you know, you can't dox Elon, but three quarters of the world is being doxed at any particular point in time, there's no way for anybody else other than Elon to ban anybody or protect themselves. Well, he also what was interesting is that he suspended an account that was Russian oligarchs’ jets being, you know, being tracked, which was like, oh, really? - You want to protect those guys? Okay. - Right. Maria, you're someone so you live in a country that obviously has a more authoritarian bent, although what's, is the new boss same as the old boss? How is Marcos in relation to Duterte? You know, Marcos is a little bit better than our last administration just because the bar was so low. But this is a Marcos.
This is President Marcos, 36 years before he was were overwhelmingly elected, his father and the family was thrown out by a people power revolt. Part of the reason that he wanted, he won now is because of information operations that began in 2014, not coincidentally, the same time as Russian information operations against Crimea, which was used in Ukraine. So this is all like, well, picking up three things, I think, one, this technology has pushed journalism to be its worst, right? Because the incentive structure gives widest distribution to the most salacious, the one that makes you angry, afraid or hateful. - Incentivize for conflict and outrage. Right. - Right. And more than that, for lies. Right.
So it's really and remember, if we don't have integrity of facts, then we don't have integrity of elections. And it can be weaponized knowing that you can weaponize it. And look at the business of news across the world. All the money is gone, right? - There are no fact checkers anymore. - Yes. And you talked about looking at trending news items as a way of determining what you're going to write about or produce.
That's a way of saving money. You know, you don't need as many producers. You don't need as many editors, you don't need as many reporters because a lot of the work is done for you. So what's the balance, Maria, when you talk about that freedom of expression versus guardrails that can be weaponized by authoritarian regimes, what's the balance? Well, right now, I could go to jail for the rest of my life because of the information operations that my government has done against me. China.
Facebook took down information operations from China that was attacking me and journalists in the Philippines. But let me pick up the pull up the global parts of the of Twitter, because Twitter in the Philippines is actually significantly better than Facebook or YouTube. Right. It is.
I'm actually far more protected on Twitter, even though now they're coming in. And part of that was just a take up on Twitter isn't as large as the take up on Facebook. 100% of Filipinos on the Internet are on Facebook. Facebook is our Internet. And a lot of the videos, of course, Tik Tok coming in.
But a lot of the videos that were distributed on Facebook and subsequently Twitter came from YouTube. So this is an entire ecosystem. But I think the put putting up what you had said, which is, you know, this is very different outside the United States most of the time, these American tech companies care about what happens in America because they also make the most money from America and Europe in our parts of the world, there aren't enough people who understand our language, who understand the nuances. But it is also here's the flip side. It is also where activists, human rights activists, journalists actually can reach. It flattens.
It allows you to reach lawmakers in the United States, in the EU. And when Elon first bought it and took over, there was actually an ongoing you mentioned Iran. Iran was an ongoing campaign on Twitter at that point in time. Right.
As was Egypt, you know, one of the main proponents of the Arab Spring had just started a hunger campaign. And this was heading towards the climate change. And all of this was turned upside down because Elon decided that he would randomly change things when he felt like it. I think this is the difference between programing as in one program, this is your works and you can own it and you can do what you want. But this is an entire global system where people lose their lives. Boy, Maria, this is it's enormous.
What an underreported story. Is that the sort of arbitrary machinations of Elon Musk have actually had huge ramifications for activists on the ground in Iran. But then, you know, he's providing, you know, Internet for Ukrainians, like it's such a mixed bag. But he just hiked the prices by 25%. - Did you see that? He said that, - I did not see that. it was like a month ago StarLink sent out a notice to Ukrainians.
It was like, “thanks for using StarLink. We're now raising prices by 25%. Thanks for using it bye.” Well, so the flip side of that is Russia, which controls all of the information and the Russian people, if they had access to the real on the ground information in Ukraine, I would imagine Putin would be in a more precarious position than he's even in right now. Julia, how are they getting any of the information as far as they're concerned, Russia is winning and that de-Nazification continues.
I don't know that it's that simple. I think that there was actually a great episode about this of The Daily a couple of few days ago between Sabrina Tavernise, who's a former Russia correspondent, and Valerie Hopkins, who's a current Russia correspondent for The New York Times and who is in Moscow now, which is incredibly dangerous. And she and she went to a draft office, a military draft office, and spoke to people, men going in and their mothers and wives and girlfriends standing outside. And. And basically what she came away with very like a very vivid picture of what we've all been picking up on, is that Russians are so bombarded with disinformation and misinformation that inevitably they just shut off.
And which is, I think, what you see in some corners of the U.S., too, where it's like, I don't even know what to believe anymore. Everybody's lying. And so I'm just going to go back to my little life. Nothing depends on me anyway.
The big people at the top decide they're not going to ask me. My life is too insignificant. My opinion doesn't matter. And. And I don't believe anyone anyway, because there's too much of it and they're all lying.
So I'm just shut off. Like a fatalism takes over. Yeah, but that's by design, right? And it's on purpose, because then when you're called up, you don't want to go, you don't want to die. You don't really understand what the war is for. Most Russians don't really understand with the war is -- some really support it, but most are don't really understand what it's for.
But then they're like, “I don't know. Like they called me up. I don't want to go to jail for not going for draft dodging.
And I guess the people at the top know better, but I don't know what to believe anymore. - So I'll just go.” - Right. And hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people feel that way, that's a good way to wage a war in the short term. Right. And but I think that's and and you see that I think replicated in other authoritarian regimes around the world and by leaders who lean authoritarian. Hint Hint.
Right. Who, you know, bombards you with so much. Again, so many lies. Yeah. But a certain point, Julia, the facts. The facts on the ground are the facts on the ground. And if enough Russian families are losing their sons, you know, there is a certain reality to an extended war and a siege that the casualties begin to pile up and people begin to see the terrible.
But they’re not Americans. I just want you to understand. They're not Americans. Like they don't expect their lives to get better.
- They don't expect their lives to be good. - I see what you're saying. - I see. - Yeah. And that's kind of the Russian zeitgeist right? In Russia. They’re still in the Tolstoy, they’re in the Tolstoy era. - They expect like it's like, okay, can I go, - Dostoyevsky. Life is to suffer? So yeah.
So and just real quick, this is the joke that will explain the Russian mentality to you where, you know, a bunch of Russian peasants are standing in a giant sea of liquid sewage and it comes up to like right under everybody's noses and everybody's sitting there with the tops of their heads sticking out. And one guy sticks his head out, up, looks around and is like, “hey, we're all standing here in shit. Why are we doing this? Let let us let's go. Let's get organized. Let's improve our lot. Why are we just standing here in shit?” And somebody else looks up and goes, “Shh! Stop making waves.”
That's Russia. Yeah, yeah. One of those people. That's why Karl Marx apparently was like, “look, we should get out of here.” And everybody is like, “I don't know how well that's going to work out.”
- Yeah. - Mark, I want to talk to you. So you've got media and you've got the political system. But the truth is, capitalism is really the thing that interconnects all of these cultures.
And ultimately, you know, when Julia is talking about a group of people who decide we're just going to go provincial, we're going to go local, we're going to give up. Or then there's another group that's only connecting through kind of social media and information and disinformation and weaponization of said information, but business people have a ground, you know, level reality that they have to stick to that is interconnected and globalized. And what is the power that they can... influence --
They just leave. They just leave. It's just not worth it. Right.
You know, like let to Maria's point, most of the money is in the United States. And so it's not worth jeopardizing your brand because whatever is written is not going to be kind to you if you sustain your business operations in any type of authoritative country. It's just not it's not worth it. So they leave.
Even even the places that are more oligarch oriented or state-run like China, you know, clearly, you know, they're able to maintain a globalized economy while still exercising a real authoritarian control. Well, it's changing now, too. It depends on what industry. Right? So you see what's happening with semiconductors. You know, there's a lot of money to be made in China selling any type of high end technology related to semiconductors.
First, you know, our government is saying, no, you can't do it. And second, they're not doing it because at some point you realize you don't want to kill the golden goose, right? If China inc. is stronger than America inc. across the board with new A.I. technologies and semiconductor technologies, you know, we all have bigger problems. And so there is some rationality and pragmatism from corporate America in how they view international operations.
It's just not worth being in the environment unless you're some subversive organization, the Wagner group or whatever. Right. But, you know, it's typically not worth it. But don't we always the United States in particular does this we punish the citizens of these authoritarian regimes through sanctions. So we create that.
We've done it in Iran -- we've done it all around the world. And we create these economic bars and economic deprivations. And the people that suffer, as Mark I think alluded to, aren't the oligarchs and they aren't the businesspeople and they aren't the corrupt government officials. It's the individuals on the ground. The people of Iran suffer terribly under the kinds of sanctions. And Maria, you know, living in a country that has a more authoritarian bend, what is your opinion of the efficacy of those kinds of things and what we can do? What is the leverage that democratic societies have other than punishing the citizens of countries already suffering under a lack of freedom? Well, so first, before I answer that one, let me just twist this just a little bit.
You know, social media, the tech, when they became gatekeepers because lies spread faster than facts. Because now modern authoritarians basically lie all the time. Then they say it's the other guy who's lying, and it's those journalists who are lying. And then everyone goes, you know, so who is telling - there is no truth, right? That's the goal of Russian disinformation. I don't think it's a coincidence that the number of democracies globally has rolled back to 1989 levels.
And this has been done because if you don't have integrity of facts, you don't have integrity of elections. We are democratically electing illiberal leaders. The United States also having done some of this. But so as we roll it back, right, so 60% of the world today is under authoritarian rule, 60%. - And it looks like - - is that the highest like since 1989, that's the highest since the USSR fell, because that's ‘89 is when the Berlin Wall. - All that. Yeah. - Correct. Correct. So.
So really if you look at the next two years, if nothing significant is done and the United States must take a role in this because it was first started by American tech companies. If nothing significant is done, we will have enough elections. We will elect more illiberal leaders democratically and they don't just crumble the institutions of democracy in their countries They do it - they ally globally like Bela would - Belarus would.
Would this be a Democrat country today if Russia didn't come in to help? So and then and then to pull up what Mark said, which is, you know, in the end, it is power and money, but it cannot be like climate change, where you take power and money right now and then you kill the world for anyone else. This is where we are headed with democracy. And so what's the, what do we do in the immediate term is. Yeah, well. - By spring '20– - But don’t you think Maria, and I'll, I'll ask all you guys but isn't the rolling back of liberal democracies and the increase in illiberal democracies a product of instability? And when you look at instability, who are the actors of instability within the world? And I would say the United States has unleashed a large part of the momentum for these illiberal governments by our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who sent all those migrants across the seas into Europe that caused the voters in those areas to then turn to the right? and Lapin, and Maloney, and Sweden.
You know, we've played a really large role in. Oh, boy, Julia. All right. For those of you who are just listening on the podcast, as I was getting up ahead of steam about the United States policies leading to illiberal democracies, Julia let the record show Julia Ioffe has raised her hand and the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from her, what appears to be her library. Yes. I think that is partially true. I think the migrants coming from across the sea to Europe are the result actually of people rising up and asking for democracy and countries like Russia coming in and trying to put that down. And countries like - Putin specifically, weaponizing -
But you're talking about in Syria, pretty much solely. Well, that's, that's what happened. That's where they were mostly coming from. That is what gave us Brexit. That is what gave us the mostly the right turn in European politics.
That was - uh, Putin helped create that flow of refugees in 2015 by coming in with tremendous air power that the Syrian regime no longer had and bombing Aleppo, bombing aid convoys, bombing hospitals, bombing schools, and creating a refugee flow, weaponizing that refugee flow against Europe because the EU had sanctioned him for taking over Crimea - Right. - And trying to break up the unity inside the EU and hoping to weaken sanctions on him. - So I think it’s a little bit - - But that doesn’t excuse - Our actions in Iraq and Libya. Yeah, but yeah, but I understand. But I think that
I think where this the argument falters a little bit is is the presumption that, again, it's very I find that argument to be a little bit solipsistic and provincial, which. - Is that - - That’s my, that's my trademark Julia. That's what I do. That’s my, that's my jam.
It assumes that the U.S. is the only actor in the world and it takes away agency from all other countries. - Sure. - There are plenty of other actors in the world who create instability. Instability is kind of the default for worlds for for the world.
- You look throughout history - - I was not suggesting the United States is the sole purveyor of instability. But we are an incredibly powerful force that unleashed a good deal of destabilization in that part of the world. Absolutely. But I don't think that that's what is the only thing driving the world toward that is what's driving the world toward autocracy.
Give me give me a percentage. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme your. - Ooh Maria! - Now Maria’s got her hand up. All right, come on. - Tag team back again. - Give - talk to me about what’s - Talk to me about what's driving this move towards autocracy. Because if World War Three is coming, I want to know who's the allied powers and who are the Axis powers and who are we joining up with? So, Maria.
I go back and I wrote a whole book about this. Right. What is the fundamental game changer, what you brought up? Like Julia said, in many ways that still happens at the speed of human comprehension and human beings and societies shift to these things, right? Elections happen at the speed of human comprehension, what does not happen at the speed of human comprehension is information warfare, information operations. So what you're talking about of Russian capture of media is very, very different from Russian disinformation that targeted Americans and continues to target with dezinformatsiya, right? Russian military doctrine says that disinformation, information warfare is part of its military doctrine. And this is the best part that I love Yuri Andropov, former KGB chair, says that dezinformatsiya is like cocaine.
You take it once or twice and you’re gonna be okay. But if you take it all the time, you are a changed person. - We have taken it all the time since at least 2014. - It’s gonna get worse. Right.
- And it is gonna get worse. - Wait, what? Hold on, Cuban. You can't just you can't just chime in. It's going to get worse. It’s gonna get worse. Have you played with ChatGPT at all?
Yeah. The next battle is is the next battle is not that much about yeah the next battle isn't so much about Twitter or control of Twitter. It's who controls the AI models and the information that goes in them. Right? Because if you play with any of these ChatGPT you know, DaVinci version 3.5, not to get too much in the weeds. Right.
We're just in the first inning of what's going to happen with AI interactive models. And so if you go to Chat GPI and openai.com and play with it, it's stunning. It's stunning how far it is. - But imagine, you know, this is version 3.5 - - How can be my version.
Yeah yeah. Version 10? What goes into those models is going to be more impactful than Twitter. Like my 13-year-old is already scheming how to write his papers.
Right. Because, you know, you can tell me. You can you can go in there and say, “write me a paper about Russian disinformation approaches written for an eighth grader.” And it will do it at an eighth grade level. It's insane.
Well, okay, so let me let me try and put an optimistic spin on it, then. So the world has always been destabilized, not just by America. Thank you, Julia, but by the introduction of new forms of media. I mean from the Gutenberg press to radio to television to – Don’t forget the clay tablet. Oh, my God. The Clay tablet was a fucking game changer.
A game changer, Julia. I still have my old clay tablets. Go through ten lines, right? But the point being that whenever these new forms of communication are entered into the system, human comprehension is not able to digest them in a way that is not destabilizing.
But there is a little bit, or have we reached a point where this technology is so agile and so virulent that human comprehension can't catch up? Or will, Mark, your 13-year-old, are they more immune to its negative deprivations because it's not new to them? Their brains are more evolved. Our generation, right Gen-X and older, doesn't get it, right? The Gen Z and younger. They're not only native to it, they know how to block things out. Right? Just like we would tell our parents, you know, I don't want to deal with it. I'm not doing whatever. But they, they're better able to deal with it.
But they're also going to define what comes next. Not our generation, their generation. And they're more in tune to all these issues we're discussing. - It's new to us because we’re stuck in a legacy world - But it is destabilizing.
These new technologies in and of themselves - Are destabilizing. - Far worse, far worse than what - Yeah, far worse than what we've seen so far, because they're, what, Twitter or Facebook to a certain extent, they're Democratic within the filters that an Elon or Zuckerberg or whoever else puts. Once these things start taking on a life of their own and that's the foundation of, you know, a ChatGPT And DaVinci 3.5 has taken on a life of its own.
So the machine itself will have an influence, and it'll be difficult for us to define why and how the machine makes the decisions that it makes. And who controls the machine. Julia, you've seen this from, you know, the Russian side, the American side. In your mind, what's the best way to deal then with these new weaponized misinformation and disinformation technologies that absolutely do draw people together, but also can clearly be weaponized to create conflict and destabilization? What's your, you know, do you have a sense of solution? I think Europe has done a pretty good job.
I mean, laws and regulations are always going to lag behind technology. By the time a lawmaker or a state body figures out what a technology really is and figures out what threat or risk it poses to society, how to regulate it, what guardrails to put on it, then figures out how to get it through the legislative process, blah, blah, blah. It will have already evolved 15 times at least. But I think Europe has done a pretty good job of regulating that space. But unfortunately, I think it's always going to be at the margins because so much of it is not just the technology, but it is — I mean, there's a reason I made a joke about the clay tablet and you mentioned the printing press.
So much of it is that it's just a tool in the hands of human nature. And it is what people do with it and what people decide to do with it. And that I mean, you can only put so many guardrails — I've always said that you can split an atom and you can create energy for an entire continent or you can blow it up. And which one did, obviously, humans decide to do first. But —
you know, maybe what I'm wondering is if democracy is our analog, if people are analog and these technologies are digital, then we'll never be agile enough because a system of checks and balances is never going to be agile enough to catch up. - So maybe these new crowdsource - Never. decentralizing technologies also hold the answer. Maybe — Are we talking crypto now? Well, we're going to get it, but maybe the idea is crypto information guardrails.
Maybe the idea is crowdsourced blockchain moderation of these systems because it's going to be more agile. I mean, as funny as like we may make Wikipedia out to be, it's a pretty good system for moderating information. But that can be weaponized too. I mean, we'll get to a point in the not too distant future where it'll be “I didn't write it, my reported it, write it. The CEO didn't write it, the dictator didn't write it. It was the AI that wrote it. It's not my fault. It's the AI's fault.”
You know, And we'll have to extend sources. We're going into a whole new world. And I don't even think people realize how much things are going to change. You know, AI is more impactful than anything I've seen in my in my life. It's not going to be like Terminator AI.
- It's like we just don't know what's real and what's not AI. - No. Not yet. Right. We all have limited time, so we have to make our own editorial decisions on who we trust and who we don't trust. And that's one of the values of Twitter.
You know, I follow this person because I trust them. I don't follow that person because I don't trust what they say. With AI, it's not an individual. It's an accumulation and an ingestion and spidering of everything, right? And it's going to be really difficult to reverse engineer.
And there's going to be people who trust it and it's going to be insane. So, Maria, how then do these sources earn their editorial trust? How do they earn their authority in a world where it's changing so quickly and will that become more valuable, you know, in the way that they said Cronkite earned his editorial authority? We have to move out of the old world right? I mean, in the Nobel lecture last year, I said, you know, this is like there's an atom bomb that exploded in the information ecosystem and we have to do what happened when the atom bomb exploded. And it still is. Right so, what did they do? The world came together in a completely different way. They created the United Nations.
They created NATO, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What are the standards and ethics? What are the values that will govern this? Why is this what manipulates our emotions and our minds? Why is that not governed the same way that genetic technology, CRISPR technology is governed? From the very beginning, laws were put in place. We can now customize babies, you know, but we can't because government stepped in — democratic government stepped in — and said, “You know, we can be gods, but we don't have the wisdom of gods.” We — and this is where I do say the same thing Julia said, which is the EU is ahead of the game, but it is because the United States and other democratic nations have let power and money loose without guarding the people, the users. We need to move from being users to citizens and demanding — Julia’s not even Jewish agreeing now — - thats there’s a Better Busniess Bureau -She’s just flat out agreed.
She just actually now. She's not shaking her head no. She is nodding up and down vigorously seconding Maria Ressa. Julia, is that is that your mindset as well? Yeah, I mean, I think that that's that's kind of the problem in the U.S. and then, you know, getting back to the Elon problem, right, is that money can pretty much buy you anything in the U.S. And getting back to the I mean, the other big story of of the last month or so, which is Sam Bankman-Fried and — I'm not familiar with this. Could you could you. Fill me in?
I haven't, I heard anything. You know, it's funny because I'm going to the Bahamas this winter and I just want to make sure that everything is — - There's probably cheap real estate for you down there. - No. I would imagine so. But go ahead, Julia.
Yeah, And, you know, we just came out of the midterms and there was the whole thing of, you know, Peter Thiel had two of his candidates. And actually, my colleague Teddy Schleifer did an amazing job covering this. of you know, the way that Mitch McConnell was constantly his team was constantly in touch with Peter Thiel and trying to get more money out of him and that there's this whole shadow election happening behind the — before anybody even gets to cast a vote. There is you know, it's actually called a shadow primary. You know that where before anybody even gets to cast a vote, the person who raises the most money is the one who gets to advance to even start campaigning. Right? And — it's a problem that was made worse by Citizens United.
But I think, you know, the whole — I am here in Washington, D.C., where it's quite swampy, -Yes it is. - like the the lobbying apparatus is insane. The fact that you can, you know, stop any bill, that you can add all kinds of things that gum up the works that prevent the kinds of regulations that you need to control this kind of technology from getting out. Julia, are you about to make an announcement that America needs a superhero and you have a big major announcement to make concerning that? Maybe perhaps with trading cards and — - NFT trading cards, right? - NFT trading cards as some kind of superhero? I'm not — I'm even worse at Photoshop that Donald Trump is.
All right. But getting to that Mark, you know, Julia brings up Sam Bankman-Fried became a player not just because of his whatever crypto and hedge fund and Alameda and FTT tokens. He became a player because he had millions of dollars to give to the political system.
That's how he insinuated himself. And he did it as much as he's doing his Chauncey Gardner routine now in all of his interviews, like, “I don't know how this happened, I just woke up,” - you know the intention was, I think, - flawless. to corrupt the parts of the system that he knew needed to be corrupted - for him to carry on his scheme unfettered. - Of course. Yeah. All of this comes down to transparency, right? Where there is no transparency, there is extraordinary risk.
And we all try to shortcut things through trust, through brands, etc.. And whether it's, you know, authoritative regimes, whether it's United States, whether it's dealing with digital, whether it's dealing with AI, whether it's dealing with pharmaceuticals, where you find opacity and lack of transparency, you're going to find fraud at one level or another. And so when it comes to legislating any of this, it comes down to who's willing to keep the Carmona open. And like Maria was talking about CRISPR and everything that's relatively transparent because people have to experiment and those things get published. We don't see that in politics, in business, in other areas. And so where we can legislate for transparency, where you have to disclose all these things because it's digital, it's easier to disclose, it's easier to review, it's easier to analyze.
But we have no transparency. And as long as that's the case, SBF can do what he did just like Donald Trump used to say, “Yeah, I know these politicians because I gave them all this money and they'll do what I said.” - You know, the game hasn’t changed — - But isn't it a matter of degree though? Because when you think about, okay, there's no transparency on, we knew that this guy was giving people money, but I think when the Supreme Court redefined corruption as it must be explicit, quid pro quo, we lost a really great tool at rooting out this kind of insinuation. And I'll go even further.
You know, when I look at the intricate workings of Wall Street, it doesn't look that much different from the shit that Sam Bankman-Fried pulled. - Of course not. - And the legalized corruption that we have in this country looks very similar to — everybody wants to go, “Well, that was a clearly a Ponzi scheme.” Well, how the fuck is it different from a lot of the stuff that I see at the heart of congressional stock trades and conflict of interest on Wall Street and payment for order flows and all that other shit that goes on there.
It's not different. I mean, money buys power, period, end of story. And once you get it, there's different ways of confirming it. You know, in the case of Elon he buys the platform. - In the case of Sam Bankman-Fried. - Right. He bought politicians, and particularly in an area that people don't fully understand, like crypto, you know, it - I heard this line the other day.
It takes a couple of frauds to pop a bubble, right? A financial bubble. It took Enron and WorldCom, MCI. It now it's going to take you know, what we saw with with Sam and who was it with? Terra and Luna and all the others there.
And Three Arrows Capital. - Right. - You know, so now crypto will get its act together. But we don't have the equivalent in government, you know, we don't have the equivalent in politics yet. Everybody still corrupted. You know, and you talk about domination.
It's a two party system. It's the easiest system in the world to dominate. Because if you can rise to power on one of the two, you have half the power, you know.
- But until we change it, - But to Maria's point, that's just. But that's just America. - Yeah. No, I get that it’s just America. - The system is now globalized. And, you know, when you look at the largest. - donations. - But they call it they call the president the leader of the free world for a reason,
you know, and that's within a two party structure. So there's a duopoly and you have a 50% chance if you can get the top of either one of them, to be the most powerful person in the world. - Right. - Sounds like a commercial, you know, but that that's an inherent you know, it's an inherent problem that we have.
That's why I'm a fan of ranked choice voting not to get too far afield. Maria, when you look at like, when I look at that SBF story and the crypto and all that, I also look at the media’s utter irresponsibility in when this cat first showed up, I mean, they licked him up and down and treated him like a rock star. The very same people that are now saying, “Oh, this was clearly a Ponzi scheme, Bernie Madoff-type guy.” How do you — you know, when I look at CNBC or Fox business, are those these are 24 hour news organizations that have basically become kind of cheerleaders for a lot of these incredibly risky and new fangled types of financial instruments that most people don't understand.
And ultimately, retail is the group that gets screwed. - Yeah, - So how do you how do you put the screws to a media to be more responsible, not just the company? So it's it's not even just that financial instrument, it's technology again. Right. Because the crypto part was the beginning of it. And then — So how did everything shift? Because we all believed in the power of technology. Again, I was the truest of true believers in social media until it became unfettered and the, and the harms were very, very clear.
And it was and it became very personal in crypto, all of the things that they used to say. So what did I do? I worked with Civil. I was on the board and I looked at and I was like, this is like not quite anything that it's built up to be. - So I think definitely are tech reporting — - Are you talking about crypto or Sam? crypto and Sam, I mean on almost all fronts of what I think at the beginning and this would be from 20 — 2014 moving forward.
Right, everybody, it's the hockey stick of growth. And there was always like the unicorn. Everyone wanted to be the unicorn. I did I did a startup.
I did I did series A, right. And that's what everyone wants. People thought there was a shortcut that easy money is easy money and tech was the way to do it.
It isn't true. There are harms that come with that. And we are now feeling it. There's a difference between the underpinning technology of crypto. You know, there's the signal in the noise.
In crypto there is 99% of it was noise, but there's real value with signal there. But look, I was out on the phone with Sam for an hour talking crypto. Right. And he's smart, he understands it. But I didn't know he was a crook any more than, you know, any other Ponzi schemer. You don't know until you know.
- Right? He's in his particular case, something. - Right. But the question is, you can't just dismiss him as a crook because he's following a playbook that is actually been, you know, made — Well, that's what psychopaths do, right? You know, They see the obvious. He went from a crook to a psychopath. - Well, they go sometimes they're one in the same, right? - Yeah.
Right, right, right, right, right. So maybe the lesson is this guys and I’m cognizant of your time. And we'll wrap up. And I've so appreciated the conversation. It's this.
With technology and all these things that are associated with technology moving so quickly, there's no question that people, given our true nature, will pervert almost anything you put in front of us. And, and now that the velocity of the perversions have come so far and so fast, we need robust protections from ourselves and most base instincts. And we don't know, we don't know where that's going to come from. But we're hoping that it comes from the collective efforts of well-intentioned, smart people who will be earning their authority. - Yes. - Yes.
- I hope so. - Ok the we’re done here. So no World War Three? - I mean you can argue, - Oh man. - that World War Three is happening already. - It's just has lousy branding.
- Right, I mean, you can argue it is happening. - Yeah. And it is not just a conventional war in Russia and Ukraine, you know, it's individual. Sorry, I'll shut up on that because I do think we are in a war, each of us, on these platforms. But I'm on, that's my, that's – it comes with the inability to tell fact from fiction all across the board. And is it any surprise when the when the companies the platforms that connect us prioritize the spread of lies? It's almost like telling your kid lie all the time and I'll keep rewarding you. - That's the world we live in. - Boy. That's such an incredible point.
And I think, you know, I think about my kids because they're they're now getting to the age where they're about to go off to college. But so much of their education when they're younger is, you know, don't cut people in line. It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice. You know, all these sort of really basic rules of the r