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Edward Snowden Sounds Off on Fake News and Surveillance - By jkukura - December 15, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Edward Snowden Sounds Off on Fake News and Surveillance

(Screenshot: YouTube)

Edward Snowden, the government surveillance whistleblower who fled the U.S., did a live interview this week, as his supporters call for a pardon in the final days of the Obama administration.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey moderated the interview, so of course it was broadcast on Twitter’s livestreaming product Periscope. And this being Twitter’s live-streaming product Periscope, the on-demand replay of the interview chokes out pretty regularly.

We’ve transcribed Snowden’s most compelling observations and quotes from the interview below.

Now exiled perilously in Russia, Snowden weighed in on PRISM, a secret government program designed to collect customers’ personal data from Apple, Google, Facebook and other tech companies. “All of these guys were going beyond what the law required to give the government information off of their servers,” Snowden said of the companies. “They were spying on people’s pornography viewing habits to discredit their politics.”

Snowden also lamented the emergence of fake news, which may have been critical in swinging the election. “There’s a sad thing happening in journalism right now where it feels like the truth doesn’t matter,” Snowden said in the interview. “You get real news stories that well-reported and are out there. But nobody in the Twitter realm retweets them.”

“But if you put something crazy out there, something that does make people argue about it, something that does make people be offended by it, or interested in ‘Is that true?’, they will share it, it will expand, even if it’s not true,” he said.

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee,” Snowden continued. “We as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services, help each other. We talk and we share and we point out what is fake.”

“The answer to bad speech is not censorship, the answer to bad speech is more speech,” he concluded.

Snowden mourned the loss of our personal privacy to companies who’ve been willing to share it with the government, compromising our location and web browsing habits. “Increasingly, these things belong to companies, and companies can share them, however they want, without a lot of oversight,” Snowden said. “This is the central problem of the future. How do we return control over our identities to the people themselves, the people who those identities belong to?”

Edward Snowden faces an uncertain future — exiled in Russia, while the incoming U.S. president has a curiously close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. But whatever his fate, he does not regret his actions.

“When the public understands the operation of government, we’re not harming government,” Snowden said. “We’re improving it.”

The full Jack Dorsey interview of Edward Snowden is also available on YouTube.