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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 30, 2019 4:30am-5:01am BST

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saudi arabia's crown prince mohammed bin salman says he takes responsibility, as a leader of his country, for the murder of the journalist jamal khashoggi a year ago this week, but again denied he had ordered the killing. he was interviewed on cbs's 60 minutes programme. democrats in the united states congress say impeachment hearings against donald trump could be held this coming week. the allegations centre on claims he put pressure on ukraine to dig up dirt on a potential presidential rival. but a former prosecutor in ukraine says there was never any dirt to dig up. there've been running battles on the streets of hong kong as pro—democracy demonstrators clash with police. protesters threw molotov cocktails and the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. it comes ahead of major celebrations planned in china to mark 70 years of communist rule.
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we have the briefing coming up at five o'clock. but now on bbc news, it's hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. remember the time when the internet was trumpeted as the tech tool that would deliver us a golden age of knowledge, freedom and democracy? well, now we are in a darker, more cynical place. the digital revolution has generated fears about lost privacy, mass surveillance and systemic misinformation. have the corporate titans of tech failed us? well, my guest today is brad smith, president of microsoft. how do we ensure our astonishing technological advances are harnessed for good, not harm?
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brad smith, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, nice to be here. you have served an extraordinary amount of time at microsoft, the best part of three decades. you have seen the evolution of our attitudes towards information technology and the internet in particular. i have referred to the sort of great positivity, the optimism, in the early years. would you agree that these days, we are much more anxious and fearful about what the internet does, and how it might betray some of our values? i think that's the case. we live in an age of anxiety overall, i would say.
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we talk about the forces that are disrupting our lives, and even when we're not talking about technology, when we are talking about trade, globalisation, income inequality, we are actually talking about forces that have been unleashed by technology. so we do live in a time when technology is both a tool and a weapon, and we need to address both sides of that coin. interesting you use this phrase, and you have written a whole book with its title front and centre, "tool and weapon." let us address this notion of information tech and the internet being a weapon. who is to blame for the weaponisation? i think in some sense, we should look all around us. i would look first and foremost at certain governments that clearly are weaponising technology. we have authoritarian regimes launching cyber attacks that disrupted, on a single day in 2017, one—third of all of the nhs hospitals in the united kingdom. but it's broader than that. we see cyber—criminals,
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we see concerns about our privacy from unintended consequences. the one grouping you left out there were the giant tech corporations themselves, of which you are of course a representative, a very senior one. is it not the time to conclude that the tech giants and, of course, in the western world there are the big five, which includes microsoft, and we can list the others later. these tech giants became too big, too powerful, too full of hubris? i don't know if the tech giants are too big or too powerful, but we all need to step up. we need to think more broadly. we need to assume more responsibility. i do think that the industry needs to mature and really acknowledge quite explicitly the challenges that technology has created, and notjust the benefits. but i do want to talk about the evolution, because it is very germane to the microsoft story itself. it's not so long ago, let's say in the mid to late—1990s,
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that many people studying the tech sector referred to microsoft as "the evil empire." you were the first of these giant companies that ruthlessly exploited technology to dominate the marketplace. looking back, do you think that was actually a mistake, the attitude that was brought to the table by microsoft? we made more than our share of mistakes. and i think it is an interesting story, because we had to learn. part of what we had to learn was to look in the mirror and see ourselves not as we wanted to see ourselves, but as the way other people saw us. we had to learn to connect with the world. we needed to assume more responsibility. we needed to compromise and accept regulation as it was imposed on us, and in that story, i do think there are parallels for the tech sector as a whole today. because it was tempting, of course, this was personified perhaps by bill gates more than anybody else, tempting to see this sort
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of geeky, extraordinarily smart business leader in a new enterprise, tech—oriented, who really was sort of in it for the purity of developing the knowledge. but of course bill gates wasn't really like that at all, just as mark zuckerberg more recently isn't really like that at all. he's notjust the uber—geek, he's a ruthless businessman out to suck every dollar of profit that can be made from his dominance of the market. i would not endorse a statement that broad. what i would suggest is that in the world of technology, people start companies with a great idea and they move very fast. one of the lessons to be learned is that while it is important to move fast, one should never move faster than the speed of thought. and i think if you look at the history of digital technology, it has had a tendency at times for companies to move fast — the old slogan was "move fast and break things."
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i think the new slogan is... just to interrupt you on that point, do you think microsoft was guilty of that, in its determination to absolutely dominate and rule the operating system market for pcs? i think that what we learned was that we needed to think more broadly. there is a singularity of focus that you often find in very successful tech companies, and microsoft was among them. and then you reach a point where you just have to recognise that the impact that you are having on others, other people in your industry, the world as a whole, is so much greater that you have to step back and internalise that, and that's the key to accepting more responsibility. interesting. so, if that's the place that big tech is at today, do you understand the calls that are being made across the political
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spectrum in the united states right now for the break—up of the biggest companies? if we are going to name them, then it would be amazon, apple, alphabet, who of course have google, then there would be microsoft, and then there'd be facebook. there are people, and i'm going to quote for you, senator elizabeth warren, a hopeful presidential candidate in the democratic party, calling for the break—up of those big companies, because she says they "fundamentally threaten the balance of power in our democracy." i do believe we need to... i'll say, strengthen the democratic side of the balance of power in democracy. i don't believe that you need to break companies up. i don't even believe that's the best or fastest path to restore the power that the governments, especially the democratic governments elected by the public should have. we learn from microsoft's own experience, that while the government in our case 20 years ago, actually pursued a break—up
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of the company, it could accomplish what it wanted and needed without doing that. and you can move a lot faster as a government to doing it in a different way. let's talk about regulation, or as you put it in the book, you use the word guardrails in your book. the idea that you can find a way of working, private sectors, the big tech companies, working alongside the state government to develop meaningful, effective guardrails, to ensure that the public is well served. tell me what you think these guardrails should look like, that we don't have today? i think one should start by asking what problems we want to solve, and then you create guardrails to solve each one. certainly we look around the world today and there are plenty of technology problems that need to be solved. there are issues around privacy, there are issues around cyber—security. there are issues around the use of artificial intelligence in, say, something like facial recognition. there are economic issues, especially the impact that
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technology is having onjobs and the future of the economy. and in some places in the world there are some guardrails in place, say, in europe, around something like privacy. but almost everywhere you look, i think we need additional guardrails. we need to guardrails that will be essential for the decade ahead, the 20205, and we need to start building those now. let's get specific, and let's start with privacy and data. goodness knows technology allows every single one of us now to use our smartphones and our laptops and our tablets to acquire and use information, and thereby to also provide information about ourselves to tech companies such as yours. in the united states, there is a law which in essence says the tech companies can't be held legally responsible for online content that is on their platforms. is it your contention that
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law must now change? actually, yes. section 230 of the communications decency act. it was created in the 19905 when the internet was just really taking off. the notion was that the best way to enable the internet to take off was to give to interactive services immunity that journalists, networks, television, radio had traditionally faced for content. i don't think that one should just abrogate what was created in the ‘90s, because i think that would probably virtually suffocate social media. but the time has come to accept that there needs to be some exceptions and some new responsibilities for companies, including our own, in this space. you say including your own, but the sceptic in me says to myself, here is one of the top officials at microsoft, suggesting a change, making himself look like a real public—spirited corporate leader,
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but actually, a change which will hamstring facebook and twitter and some other content carriers won't really affect microsoft at all. this is an easy hit for you. well, i would actually say there are two things to consider. first, one of the largest social media networks in the world is linkedin, owned by microsoft. it has 650 million members around the world. i think it's always important for us to make sure that we are willing to assume the responsibilities we suggest for others. and, second, at the end of the day, i don't think we should pursue a path that fundamentally impairs the ability of any service to deliver the value that people really expect, that they rely upon, whether it's from us or from anyone else. this needs to be an exercise in identifying how we protect what we value, but create more responsibility, and there are real practical steps under way this year to do that and i think those are the things we should learn from.
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let's talk about the degree to which the big tech companies and governments are capable of cross—collaboration, of working on these problems together. i am very mindful that, for example, earlier this year, after a terrible mass shooting in christchurch, new zealand, the new zealand prime minister and the french president tried to work together and brought companies such as your own on board to get a sort of clarion call, a declaration together, of collaboration, to ensure that hate speech, for example, is taken down, taken off the internet. but, frankly, all these months later, there is no sign that that is actually working. i actually think we are making important progress, and we will continue to make important progress. i think tremendous credit is due to new zealand's prime minister, jacinda ardern and then president macron and other leaders. i happened to be in wellington, new zealand's capital, less than two weeks after the christchurch terrorist attack.
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i had the opportunity to sit down with prime minister ardern. the work that began led two months later to the christchurch call. you know what i'm going to say. donald trump and the trump administration do not seem to be interested injoining this initiative, and if the us won'tjoin, what on earth use is it? well, it's interesting. in the world today, if your goal is to actually change the features or conduct of american technology companies, you actually don't always need the united states government. look at what happened in the wake of christchurch. new zealand moved, australia passed a new law, just two weeks after that, the british government introduced a new proposal. the french and germans have moved forward and the american technology companies have actually changed a number of important aspects of their services that were exploited by the christchurch terrorist in a way that we should never want to see exploited again, all without the support of the us government.
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but i have to be honest with you, mr smith. when you tell me that the new zealanders are on board and the scandinavians are on board and the french and maybe the uk government to, it doesn't really surprise me. it seems to match the rhetoric we hear from politicians in those countries. i would be much more interested and frankly impressed if you told me about the russians, the chinese, the north koreans and indeed donald trump and the americans were signing up to what you have at some points called the geneva convention that's needed to control technology across the world. these countries are the problem. and they're not interested in your solution. i actually think one should consider it from a different perspective. we need to build coalitions of the willing, especially among the world's democracies. there are roughly 75 democratic nations in the world, roughly half the world's population live in them. so, for example, under
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the leadership of a number of western countries, including the uk, france, germany, people came together in paris last year to sign a new cyber security agreement. all 28 members of the european union, 25 of 27 nato members, the us was missing, but progress is advancing. but address my wider point about the other people who are missing. frankly, in 2017, if i had been in a british hospital and had computer systems wiped out by a malware attack that came from north korea, it would be no great consolation to know that the scandinavians have signed up to a geneva convention for internet safety. what you're not telling me is, why we can continue to have any confidence in the security of our data, of our information flows, when we know there are people in north korea, russia, china, and a host of other countries committed to developing ever more sophisticated cyber warfare. but that is exactly the point. if you're going to defend the world's democracies
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from the world's authoritarian regimes, you start by building an alliance of the world's democracies. it's the basic principle that led to the creation of nato. it's the basic principle that won world war ii and it's the basic principle we need in the 21st century to defend the world's democracies from these authoritarian attacks. well, interesting point, but maybe you are being a little naive, because i'm also remembering that in 2013, you and many others from big tech were called into crisis meetings at the white house under the 0bama administration because you discovered, thanks to the leaks of edward snowden, that the us state, the government of america, your government, its national security agency, were illicitly tapping into electronic communications for their own national security purposes, unknown to the millions of people whose data was accessed. why should we trust america? when did any government in the west? i think that one should have some facing democracy and be vigilant to protect it.
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i actually think, as we describe in our book, that the snowden disclosures in 2013 were one of the great inflection points for technology of the past decade and it did awaken us all to things we did not know. it led us, as a company, to file not one, but four lawsuits against the 0bama administration. we went to the united states supreme court, we took steps that led to greater legal protections and that's the other side of the coin. if we protect our rights and democracies and protect ourselves from authoritarian cyber attacks, that's not going to solve the problems of the world, but it's fundamental to the progress we need to make. i am really sensing your passion for this, but i'm also wondering whether you are not being deeply naive and perhaps some people watching this will say a bit misleading. because we've established that state actors across the world, frankly, on their record, can't be trusted to follow your principles,
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but also on the private sector has repeatedly failed to follow your principles. we only have to think about facebook and the data released at cambridge analytica and the fact that millions of facebook users weren't to know their data was being accessed for political purposes and we can, frankly, look at microsoft and even the recent past, you've been reprimanded in ireland, there was a published report showing that linkedin, one of your companies, was applying algorithms to personal data to suggest network connections, addressing email addresses, accessing email addresses of millions of people who had no idea that they had been accessed, and that was a linkedin responsibility. dutch officials pointing to microsoft collecting personal data without informing users. why should we trust any of the actors in this sector? i don't think that this is about sitting back and just hoping that people do the right thing. i think it is about engaging people, perhaps most especially the public
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at large, so that we all take the steps to ensure that the right thing is done. i think that the fundamental point that you are making actually is a valid one. one of the stories we share in the book was that meeting with president 0bama in the white house in 2013. i was there and as we in the tech sector were pushing the white house to put in place more checks and balances on the nsa, there came a moment in that meeting when president 0bama looked at us and said, "i have a suspicion the guns will turn. "you all in the tech sector have as much or more data "in the government, there will be a day when the demands "that you are trying to place on the government will be "placed on you." he was right. it was a prescient observation. so, if you're accepting the premise that, frankly, we should be sceptical about the state actors in the big tech companies, let me bring it back to the individual and all the people watching and listening to this interview. we all generate enormous — most of us how — enormous
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amounts of data. why can't we have ownership of that data and at least have a transparency as to what our data is being used for and by whom? well, i actually think that is something that is an important goal and it needs to be a reality around the world. so when? well, interestingly, for any country that is today in the european union, that is the law of the land. it became the law of the land in may of 2018. people in the eu have the right to go to a digital service and find out what information a company has about them. they have the right to correct and if it's wrong, to delete it, to move it to another provider and i will say, we need to bring those rights to the rest of the world and i will also say, microsoft today is the only company in the tech sector that said last may that we would take the rights that european law gave to european customers and we would extend that
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to all of our customers everywhere in the world. and we've found that customers, people everywhere actually value these rights. in the future, artificial intelligence appears to be the next great step in the sort of tech story. in the west, and particularly the united states, it seems ai and innovation within it is being driven by the big tech companies. in china, for example, it seems the state is committing itself and vast resources to investment in al. which approach do you think is going to win out? i think at the end of the day, you are going to see ongoing competition between both approaches. i don't think this is the kind of thing where one approach is going to win and one approach is going to lose. i actually think the real question shouldn't be who will do better, the us or china? the real question is, how do we ensure that artificial intelligence becomes a little bit more like electricity in the sense that it needs to be a tool that any
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company, any government, any nonprofit can use anywhere. we shouldn't want it to be an invention that drives wealth or income or power to just a couple of places on the planet. in the course of your long career and having seen what has happened to the tech sector, what's happened with private business, how states abused and misused information technology, are you confident that we human beings, as a species, are going to develop autonomous "thinking machines" in a responsible way? i think you've just asked what may well be one of the single most important questions for our generation of people because think about it in the terms you put it. where the first generation the history of humanity that is giving machines the power to make decisions that historically could only be made by people. if we get it wrong, every generation
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that follows will likely pay a price for our mistakes. does that mean that we should be optimistic or pessimistic? i actually think it means we need to be determined. it is of fundamental importance that we get these issues out on the table, we enable people to understand them, we start to bring together notjust technical people from the tech sector, but people from broad communities to really come to terms and enable us, especially among democratic societies, to put laws in place that at least increase the probability that we will get this right. so, optimist or pessimist? i am both, but mostly i say it doesn't matter. it only matters that you're determined. we are determined to do what we can, to not just think about this from a technology perspective. it's why, as we share in the book, if you go to the vatican, we meet with the world's religious leaders, with philosophers.
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if we are going to ensure that computers reflect the best of humanity, we need to ensure that all of humanity is reflected in this conversation and we just have to stay on this every day. brad smith, it's a great way to end this interview. thank very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. thank you very much. hello there. parts of wales have seen over 130mm of rain over the last seven days. no wonder, then, that we've had some problems with flooding. and after a quieter start to monday, it looks like rain will then return from the south—west.
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we start off with this little bump in the isobars. a transient ridge of high pressure moving its way through. this cold front bringing some showers into northern scotland and this area of low pressure will be feeding rain in from the south—west. so we start off with mist and fog patches which should tend to lift and clear and then a decent amount of sunshine, some showers feeding in across scotland and then this rain, particularly through the afternoon, piling into the south—west of england, three wales, where in the high ground, we could see a further 70mm, getting on to 3 inches, rain getting into the midlands as we go through the afternoon. to the north of that, northern england and scotland, it'll be largely dry with just the odd shower but on the cool side. now, as we go through monday night, that rain pushes its way northwards and eastwards, getting into the far south of scotland, certainly rain into northern ireland, some showers chasing on into the south where it will be a mild night, but we start tuesday morning on a decidedly chilly note across the northern half of scotland. so our area of low pressure just churning its way eastwards as we go through tuesday.
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along the line of this frontal system here will see some heavy bursts of rain and thunder and lightning mixed in with that. the wet weather tending to pivot its way south—eastwards, leaving something brighter behind but with the winds coming down from the north, there will be a few showers and it is going to feel really chilly, 9 there for aberdeen and stornoway. some of the showers over the highest ground in northern scotland could contain some sleet, even some snow over the mountaintops. as we get into wednesday and that area of low pressure continues to slide away eastwards, while we all get into this cold northerly wind, we could well start wednesday morning with a touch of frost. temperatures for parts of northern england, southern and central scotland, out in the countryside, could be all the way down at freezing. but it is looking for like a beautiful day for the most part. lots of crisp sunshine and blue sky overhead. some showers running down these north sea coasts on a brisk wind. lighter winds further west but daytime temperatures of just 11—14 degrees.
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then as we head towards the end of the week, there is a lot of uncertainty, it does look like temperatures will start to climb again but there could be some wet and windy weather. we'll keep you posted on that one. so for the week ahead, more rain at first but temperatures climb for the end of the week but there is the chance for some more wet and windy weather.
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this is the briefing. i'm sally bundock. our top stories: saudi arabia's crown prince mohammed bin salman says he takes full responsibility for the murder of journalist jamal khashoggi, but denies ordering the killing. deadly fire triggers riots at an overcrowded refugee camp on the greek island of lesbos. and we'll meet the recipient of this year's bbc world news komla dumor award. a day of reckoning — volkswagen face the anger of 450,000 german car owners as the emissions cheating scandal goes to court.

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