tv The Media Show BBC News November 6, 2022 5:30am-6:01am GMT
this is bbc news. the headlines: with just a couple of days to go until the us midterm elections, president biden and barack obama have hit the campaign trail in philadelphia in a final effort to win votes in the critical contest, while donald trump has held his own republican rally in pennsylvania. iran has admitted supplying what it calls "a limited "number" of drones to russia but iranian state media has said there's "no evidence" they've been used in ukraine. president zelensky has called on tehran to come clean about the extent of its involvement in the conflict. the united nations human rights chief has written an open letter to twitter�*s new owner elon musk, saying that human rights should be central to
the management of the platform. the letter follows the billionaire�*s sacking of half the staff, including the entire human rights team. those are our top stories this hour. now on bbc news, the media show. a warning — this programme contains flashing images. hello. today, we're asking whether it matters that the world's richest man now owns twitter. elon musk is the latest american billionaire to take control of an influential social media platform. should we care? and we'll also hear from journalists with the bbc�*s africa eye investigations team about how open source journalism allowed them to uncover the truth behind tragedy on the moroccan—spanish border. ben strick is one of the investigative journalists behind the story.
ben, out of interest, as we're talking about twitter, how important is it as a tool for your reporting? look, for many of us, twitter is really a lifeline. you know, not only is it a way to share findings, but i think there's — there's a couple of reasons. first of all, collaboration. i never would have met some of the people i've worked with had it not been for twitter. second, it's a world of sources at our fingertips, so that we're able to contact those that we really wouldn't be able to actually reach. and third, it's a way for us to actually speak to people on the ground and it's one of those crucial platforms for that, which, as we've seen with this investigation, we wouldn't have had access to many of those people had it not been for some platforms like twitter. okay, and we will come back to more of that, i'm sure, later. but let's go for the big story this week. elon musk announced himself as chief twit last week when his takeover of the well—known messaging app was announced. the use of racial slurs on the site immediately spiked, apparently due to trolling,
and celebrities and concerned liberals threatened to leave. the new boss has now retitled himself twitter complaint hotline operator. joining me today to talk about all this are peter kafka, a leading tech journalist and host of the podcast recode media, daniel citron, a professor of law who sits as an adviser to twitter on its trust and safety council, and shona ghosh, deputy editor at insider's uk bureau. welcome to you all. peter, if i start with you, you know, you've been following this story. what is the latest on twitter? what's musk done with it now? well, it's 12:32 i'm talking to you in new york time, so things can change. the best way to track what elon musk says or thinks he's going to do with twitter is to look at his replies on twitter. he's been tweeting all night. among other things, he insisted that the $8 charge he's going to require people to subscribe to something called �*twitter blue'. we can get into that. it's going to be $8. this was originally $20. he was arguing with stephen
king, the noted horror author, about this on twitter a couple of nights ago. that's the blue tick that authenticates people. that's the blue tick. it's going to have all kinds of other features, supposedly. he also said overnight that he'd met with a council o— f a group of people concerned about hate speech and other bad behaviour on twitter, and that he was not going to reinstate donald trump and other people who'd been banned from the platform until after the upcoming us elections. and again, what i need to emphasize is — is that the polite way of describing what elon musk is doing at twitter right now is improvisational. he will say one thing and do another. he will change his mind. most important, this is a man who pledged to buy twitter for $41; billion in april and then, within a couple of months said, "no, i don't want to do that". fought in court to not buy the thing that he now owns. so, it's hard to give you a real answer about what's happening, but a lot is happening. he's throwing a lot of spaghetti against the wall. daniel citron, you know the company well — you sit on twitter�*s trust and safety council. has he been speaking to you, to any of your colleagues? no, it's been as quiet as can be.
we're supposed to have a meeting on november 9th, a sort of a biannual trust and safety council meeting, and no word. so i have to say, i saw it twitter out. i tweeted at musk and twitter safety, say like, "hey, what's up? "council members," you know, "are wondering, are we going "to be meeting? " and of course, no word. and i fear that all the folks that i've been working with, we know that the general counsel has been fired. she's been the one i've worked really closely with, as well as nick pickles, head of safety. and i wonder if these folks are are in the process of being fired. bbecause, of course, he has fired quite a lot of people already, not least many of the top executives. yes. so i fear that, you know, he's built in response to really bad press. in 2014 and '15, jack dorsey built, you know, a whole crew of trust and safety folks led by really sophisticated and careful folks. we have a really diverse council. and i worry that in disassembling it, it's hard to reassemble so much of what is both in—house
and then, of course, outside advisors. shona ghosh from insider's. you were nodding there. what's your reaction to what's happening? yeah, something i've been- watching is the number of execs who, of course, have been fired, but who say publicly| that they have i chosen to resign. i've noticed the number- of women who have said that. i'm not actually. sure there are any women left in twitter's c-suite~ _ i think the situation - changed very quickly over the last 24 hours. but vijaya gad, who we just referenced — the top sort i of legal eagle who was responsible for a lot i of twitter's content - moderation approach — she was obviously out in i the initial cluster of exits. i believe the cmo, the chief people officer, the chief- customer officer have - all announced their departures in the last 24, 48 hours and obviously, some - of these women were women of colour as well. so, it doesn't leave a lot of diversity at the top i in terms of decision making. i think that will have i implications for safety, moderation and many other ramifications as well. - okay. and peter, what's your
sense of all this? and indeed, you know how it's going to change the way the platform is used, whether it is. i think the most consistent throughline from both elon musk and the people who are advising him privately and publicly is that they believe twitter has been wrecked by its now former management because they believe that former management was trying to prevent a certain group of people from expressing their opinions on twitter. they thought that was wrong. it turns out that most people who are advising — many people who were advising elon musk are on the sort of conservative side of the spectrum, but they believe in sort of almost an old school, early internet — early internet view of the web being let 1000 voices speak and we'll sort it out. and more speech is better than less speech. and i think that if you if you gave elon musk a lie detector, that is what he truly does believe, but i don't think he's thought through any of this. okay. well, we're going to come back to all of that and more later
when it comes to twitter but i want to turn to a story from africa eye that was published this week. africa eye is a bbc team that has been pioneering award—winning journalism, often initially from information found online. and two of the team are here. you heard ben strick at the beginning — an investigative journalist who worked on the latest story — and suzanne is the director and editor. now, back injune, shocking video started circulating on social media showing moroccan and spanish border guards in violent clashes with african migrants. 2a people died in the incident and dozens more are still missing. suzanne, how much was actually reported at the time? so that is quite, that's basically the crux of the whole matter of why this investigation led to the film that we that we're talking about. the fact that normally... well, let me — let me take it back. there's massive groups of people who are regularly storming that border fence and it's something that is reported on regularly.
and there's never that many deaths. and all of a sudden, there's 24 deaths and there's horrific— videos going on online. and the response was a lot more violent than ever, yet we were not really covering it. mainstream media were mainly covering the whole the take the authorities were giving. they were saying that it was a violent attack. and it wasn't... it was a violent attack by the migrants. yes, they were defending themselves in that way and they were not really focusing — well, tthey were not talking about the videos that were online. and these horrific videos were showing people detained on the floor, handcuffed on their back, a sea of bodies — you couldn't see where one person started and the other one ended — and there was this disconnect, what mainstream media was saying and and basically, the bbc as a news organization struggles to report this kind of stuff when it comes online at first... because you have to verify it.
that's the core — that's the core of the problem is that old—school media organizations or old—school way of doing journalism means you've got a reporter on the ground who you can trust to tell you what's happened. and with social media giving everybody a camera in their pocket, all of a sudden there's — there's people filming things everywhere. but again, there's the same problem that a journalist normally covers. who do you trust? what can you say? and the bbc as a news organization doesn't always succeed in getting that kind of stuff as quickly as people would like. 0k. so let me bring ben strick in then to tell us, what did you uncover? so, i think it's a pretty interesting question. what we found was quite counter to what the narratives were online. so, there were two specific videos that we actually focused on at the start. one video, which was primarily posted in spanish and arabic with language text, shows a lot of people heading towards the border with the idea of, "hey, "let's defend our borders".
the other video shows lots of bodies on the ground, and that's the first video that i was sent by actually suz here, who's in the studio with you, and that kind of started us thinking, "ok, what else "is online? "what are the other videos that we could find to paint "a real picture?" and what we were able to do is to piece together all of that footage to identify the events that happened that day. and through that, we're able to identify certain things that weren't reported — for example, how security forces cornered or backed migrants into a specific box, how they were tear gassed and trapped in that box, but also elements around where exactly where bodies lying on the ground? were they in grey territory? so, mixed spanish or moroccan territory? other things we were able to further identify, which just goes to show how much strength there is online and how much extra footage. and so this is things like social media profile, satellite images, that sort of thing that you're looking at?
exactly — social media profiles, but mainly photos and videos uploaded from people living in morocco, living in spain. so in melilla, that little enclave and things like that. and that's the most important juice for us is those photos and videos, they are so core to what we do. 0k. well, suzanne, i mean, africa eye is celebrated for its open source investigations — the kind that ben and you have just been involved with. anatomy of a killing, for example, in 2018, which examined the shooting of women and children that the government in cameroon had called "fake news". now, this latest is called death on the border. i wonder what role traditional journalism methods also play in this. and presumably, once you've started — you've sent that video to ben and you start looking into it and you're looking for material online, but presumably, you're also following it up with face—to—face conversations, sourcing it through the authorities? yes. well, this was this was actually quite a good mix of the two. and i think it's usually our open source documentaries kind of focus on the open source kind of verification. and in this one, we really got a chance to mix the two
where we have these videos of the whole day basically happening in front of our eyes. but then, we also have testimony from the people who were there, and that's very rare. like, one of our other films was a livestream massacre happening right there and then in sudan, but we never got to speak to the victims. we never got to hear their side of the story. whereas with this one, we actually managed to track down some of the people who are on that floor being held, being beaten, and to ask them how was it? how did this happen? how were you treated afterwards? because i guess that's where the narrative clashes with the official version of events was that people were saying people were falling off the fences and the crush is what killed most of the people. and so, that's what the authorities were saying. but actually, our evidence and our videos and the testimony combined shows that, yes, lots of people died in those events but actually, the core is there was no care. there's no medical care afterwards. so, these people are being held on the floor for hours and hours and hours being detained, handcuffed behind their back. and many of them don't survive.
yes, lots of them didn't survive. and that's where there's a big suspicion that, yes, there were 23 people who had died on the day but actually, there's 70 more people missing. and so, the question is, what happened to those? who are they? where are they? and there's a suspicion that they probably passed somewhere further down in the day or the few next few days. and that's kind of where all of this gets fudged and and becomes really important. 0k. ben, when it comes to how you've told the story, you know, it's on the bbc website, it's on youtube, but you've also done this, you know, very significant twitter thread. you were talking at the top about how important twitter is to your investigations, but it's also very important to get the story out. yeah, that's right. i mean, for — for someone like me involved with the bbc, it's quite easy to have that reach. but for a lot of people that don't have, you know, that reach or that platform, something like a twitter thread or using twitter is just such a way to really gain traction
and really post those full—length pieces. and what we're able to do is to post snippets of videos — and we've seen those actually being used by otherjournalists and adding their own context to their such as, "i saw "this back in 2017 and i have photos "to add from that event too." and itjust allows those snippets of evidence, those little cookies and crumbs along the way to then be reflected into other pieces of information. and for us, that's the biggest thing. you know, all of these bricks that are on the wall with that context that suz added about that mortar in between, every one of those bricks can be replaced to make a new wall, which is a new investigation one day, and that's what we're really hoping with these twitter threads. ok, brilliant. thank you. i mean, we were talking at the start of the programme, obviously, about twitter and some of the finer detail of the musk plans about blue ticks, job losses, that sort of thing. but, you know, is there a bigger question? shona ghosh, deputy editor insider, ofanotheramerican billionaire taking control of an
influential social media platform? should we care? i think we should care. and, you know, twitterl is obviously an american company with american roots and is conflicted i about its attitude to free speech. l but clearly, there is a sensej inside the company and with elon musk that it would i promote an american idea of free speech, which doesn't really match actually- what the uk practises, what europe practisesl and, of course, other parts of the world, i so that's one factor of how- american control and american influence that is, despite being a global platform. i i think the other facet of it being american i is the importance of wealth enabling you to expand - your power laterally. that's true in most societies, if you're rich that it _ buys you power. but i think it's particularly true in the us that in thisl instance musk and in fact the very wealthy tech - billionaires or indeed general billionaires and millionaires i are able to expand into the media, you know,| outside their core domains, into politics, influence - democracy in possibly.
slightly alarming ways. now, musk hasn't necessarily said anything that is - particularly alarming and that. necessarily goes beyond his day to day trolling, i would say. but it's clear he is _ influenced by american ideas of free speech. and i think what's going to be interesting is seeing this- somewhat self—involved american, obviously, i of south african extraction, i but being in the us for a very long time, billionaire, - try and grapple with more complex ideas of free i speech beyond the us. he's already had blowback from european regulatorsl who have said, you're - going to play by our rules while you operate in europe. and that will mean respecting european laws against hate i speech, for example. who knows what india - is going to say and who knows what what other asian . and african nations might say in response? that's going to be| pretty interesting.
danielle citron, your response to that? you know, as an adviser to twitter on its trust and safety council. musk clearly misunderstands the even the american concept of free speech, which, you know, threats, stalking, harassment, certain kinds of defamation, they fall outside of the boundaries of the first amendment. and so the reason why twitter sort of changed its rules in 2015 is because we saw cyber mobs chase, you know, women offline with a perfect storm of totally unprotected speech. and advertisers wanted no part of it. so, you know, ithink i'm concerned that his understanding of what all these free, you know, as peter noted, when you're under online assault. so my first book was about cyberstalking. and it is it is impossible to speak in the face of your nude photos being posted online. the suggestion you're a prostitute and where you can be located, rape threats and death threats. so, you know, i worry that, what do they say, what he has
wrought, is going to be a whole lot of leaving of twitter, including advertisers. and i'll be sad, you know, i'lljust be personally sad. i really, like ben, who has really crucial reasons to be, of course, on this platform as a law professor, the kind of communities that we also create, computer scientists, you know, the ways in which we reach folks in our work. for me as an intimate privacy advocate, it will make me really sad. peter kafka, host of recode media. i saw a wry smile on your face at that point. oh, i'm not sure where the wry smile came in. i guess one thing i would emphasise is, is thinking about what we're talking about when we're talking about twitter versus the internet. a lot of the issues we're talking about, so elon musk now blundering into with countries around the world, anyone who operates an internet business or any kind of internet operation has the same problems. most us companies can't operate in china, period. netflix took down episodes of a tv show at the request of the saudi government. anyone who's doing business internationally and ends up inevitably, no matter what they say at the beginning of theirjourney, ends up
having to sort of wrestle and comply with different countries regulations. it's the fact that the internet is balkanized. it applies to everyone, not just twitter. and i think, again, elon musk probably has not really considered this again. you need to emphasize that he is twitter's owner, but he's also its most probably prolific and most popular user. and i think a lot of his view of what twitter is has been skewed by that. whenever he tweets something he's deluged with with all kinds of spam bot replies. thus, he believes that spambots are a huge problem at twitter. if you're a normal person on twitter and you tweet, you probably aren't seeing that. so i think his view of the world and of twitter doesn't reflect many normal people's view. interesting. i mean, let's talk about ownership briefly. shona, twitter isn't actually owned solely by elon musk. of course, the second largest of his shareholders is a company linked to the saudi royal family. what about the influence of saudi shareholders? how committed can you be to free speech if you're partially funded by a regime that has jailed people
for things they've posted on this very platform? i would love to say . that that is something that is being, you know, . considered with great depth by twitter or indeed any other tech company that has - links to saudi. the but i suspect it isn't. you know, representatives- of the saudi shareholders have been tweeting at elon musk, also complaining about - various niche issues. but actually, saudi money is everywhere in tech, - thanks to a major investor - called softbank, who hopefully most normal people| won't have heard of. but sadly, the rest of us dorks have to follow quite closely. . softbank is a japanese telecoms company that has amassed - enormous amounts of money from external investors, - including saudi, and has mostly ploughed it into private tech- companies and now some public tech companies. i so actually, the influence of saudi money is much i bigger in tech.
so i suspect i don't know. really how carefully twitter will be thinking about it, given that actually that's a broader problem across us tech. i and danielle, we shouldn't forget i mean, the investment from the saudis predates elon musk. these kind of contradictions aren't actually new to twitter. you've advised them for over a decade. how seriously do you think the company took the question of free speech and protecting their users previously? based on what you've already said, i would say you think quite strongly. quite seriously. and of course, you know, twitter signed a memo of understanding with a european commission in 2018 which committed twitter to respecting and taking down within 24 hours hate speech defined in the way that the european commission would define it, which is quite broadly speech that demeans and denigrates people based on their group membership, you know, specific, sensitive protected groups. and so i do think they sort of understood that they were a global business, that the eu was coming for them, that germany would be coming for them, that they have to adhere to gdpr, uk's gdpr, that is, they are a global company and that the consequences can be horrific
when it comes to human rights abuses, when we see this platform used in ways that enable cyber mobs and genocide. so, you know, i think they get it. they used to get it, though we can't be sure, of course, what this looks like going forward. so i think on the one hand, we're going to see either them put out of business because the european and other governments are going to come sit on them hard for, you know, for speech violations that are relevant in their own countries. or we see a balkanized that is a truly us twitter, which sadly not many people want to join if you don't have content moderation. peter, your thoughts on this? i mean, do you think elon musk has engaged with the idea of regulation at all? is he thinking globally? he will say he's thinking
globally and he'll say this decree applies across the world. and then someone from the eu will say, actually, we've got to talk to you about that. he'll say, "oh, yeah, we should talk about that." and again, twitter was having struggles with india long before elon musk decided he wanted to own the company. whether or not he's thought about it doesn't matter. he's going to confront it regardless. and shona, i mean, canfree speech or a genuine town square exist at scale in the way he's talking? nope. and i don't think twitter has ever been a town square. i i think it has always been- anarchy since it grew to many millions of user. you know, there was a time in twitter's very early days i when it was very charming. you had to sms to be able to tweet. - and it was essentially— like sending a group dm to some very friendly- internet strangers. |we are long past that internet, that internet is dead and gone, which is why some ofl the conversations that pete kafka referred to in terms of returning to this pure - internet where it would all moderate itself - like a messaging board is pretty out of touch . in the current atmosphere i of polarisation and the fact that most of the world | is now on the internet.
so, no, i don't think a town square is the right analogyl or is possible, that there - might be miniature town squares or communities inside twitter potentially. i but broadly, i would describe twitter as anarchy. _ 0k. well, i'd like, if possible, your predictions on what will happen next, peter? i mean, what are we expecting, more of the same with twitter, something dramatically different? it's difficult to predict with elon musk. i would say i'm 100% sure there will be chaos. in what form? any ideas? no, i'm not. i'm not going beyond that. i just know there will be chaos. and danielle citron, what's your prediction? disappointing. disappointing? is anybody going to go do anything positive? that's the best i got for you! what about you ? neutral, i think. just looking at how musk runs some of his other companies, j and i'm not necessarily sure . there's an amazing track record there, but clearly at tesla, - which is, you know, has issues.
but is very, for the most part, fairly operationally tight, - has achieved some amazing things. i if he has any sense, i he will bring in a group of very tight operators to take some of these issues - off his hands. what he's done that's very wild is obviously fire all these - operators straight off the bat. very smart, very sharp team i to put out some of these fires. he seems capable of doing that. will he do it in time before . twitter effectively collapses? i don't know. and could he do it to make it more profitable, to make is that in any chance of that survival that's succeeding? i don't think that is a short - or medium term likelihood, no. thank you so much to all my guests, peter kafka, a leading tech journalist and presenter at the podcast recode media. danielle citron, a professor
of law and author of the fight for privacy, protecting dignity, identity and love in the digital age. shona gauche from insiders uk bureau. benjamin strick, of course, and suzanne from africa eye. we will be back next week. in the meantime, you can head to the bbc sounds app and search for elon musk to find a whole radio four series about him. this will have other ramifications. but for now, thank you so much for listening. goodbye. hello. sunday will be a story of sunshine and showers for the vast majority, but a bit more sunshine around than we saw through saturday. the main exception would be first thing in the morning, channel islands, far south—east england, eastern east anglia. they will see some heavy and persistent rain on already saturated ground, there could be some flooding. and even as that eases away it will be replaced by further showers later in the day. will start the day was ours in the west. because we'll start the day
with showers in the west. they will be trending away eastward, but increasing amounts of sunshine between those showers into the afternoon. and not a bad afternoon across central and western scotland in particular. temperatures saturday, 10—14 or 15 degrees. a strengthening wind, though, particularly towards the southwest, which could be gusting towards gale force as we finish the day. those winds continue to strengthen across other western areas as we go through into sunday night. and with low pressure pushing closer and closer towards the north—west of scotland, the showers will continue to feed in across many areas. but one thing, though, those winds coming in from the south—westerly direction means it will be a particularly chilly start to the new week, but monday will certainly be a fairly cloudy day with further outbreaks of rain.
good morning. welcome to breakfast with ben thompson and nina warhurst. our headlines today: nurses across the uk are set to strike in the first ever national action over pay. the prime minister will urge world leaders to move "further and faster" on renewable energy as the cop27 climate summit gets under way. an extra bank holiday will mark the coronation of king charles iii next year. success for england in the rugby league world cup. both the men and women win comfortably to reach the semi—finals.