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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
The fall out, as President Trump says, the Saudi crown prince might or might not have done it, he’s sticking with the Kingdom anyway after the
brutal Khashoggi murder. Former CIA Director, Leon Panetta, tells me how he would deal with an errant ally.
Plus, will this woman soon lead Africa’s most populous country? Why Oby Ezekwesili says she’s the one to take on endless corruption and violence in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: I think it’s a positive force because it gives more people a voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Mark Zuckerberg unrepentant. Now, Tim O’Reilly, the man who coined the phrase Web 2.0 explains what’s gone wrong and how TED can fix
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Leaders from Washington to Europe to Istanbul are expressing astonishment at President Trump’s two-page statement defending Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman after the murder of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The president decided not to take a stand on whether the crown prince ordered the murder as he later explained on the White House lawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The CIA has looked at it, they’ve studied it a lot, they have nothing definitive. And the fact is, maybe he did, maybe
he didn’t. If you look at Iran, what they’ve done, they’ve been a bad actor. You look at what’s happening in Syria with Assad, with hundreds of
thousands of people killed. We are with Saudi Arabia. We’re staying with Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In fact, though. the CIA does believe that despite the lack of a smoking gun, that kind of evidence, Mohammed bin Salman order Khashoggi
death. Condemnation of the president’s stance started with members of his own party. Senator Rand Paul, “I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi
Arabia first not America first.” Senator Bob Corker tweeted, “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations
firm for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.” And finally, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of President Trump’s key allies, he said that, “When America
loses its moral voice. it loses its strongest asset.”
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LINDSEY GRAHAM, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: Saudi Arabia needs us more than we need them, that’s not too much to ask, an ally not to butcher a guy in a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Of course, these are not just pundits pontificating on television, they are U.S. senators with enormous power.
Joining me now to discuss all of this is an official who served in every level of government, from Congress to White House chief of staff to CIA
director and Defense Secretary. He is Leon Panetta and he joins me now.
Welcome back to the program, Secretary Panetta.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Nice to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, can we just take first things first, the president’s statement on the White House lawn. First, he does the maybe he did maybe
he didn’t and then he goes straight into Iran or Assad in Syria. What do you take from that statement and that amalgamation of issues?
PANETTA: Well, I think the President, obviously, was struggling to try to figure out some kind of approach here and decided that he would ignore what
the CIA determined to be the fact. I mean, the CIA said with a high degree of confidence that the Saudi prince, crown prince, was involved here, that
this was a deliberate murder, a brutal murder that took place in another country’s consulate.
And if those are the facts, then it strikes me that the president has an obligation to acknowledge those facts as opposed to somehow excusing them
because he thinks that there are other problems he has to deal with.
AMANPOUR: Now, as former CIA director I want to ask you what you make of this. First, on the CIA issue. They do — I mean, we understand that they
don’t have a smoking gun but as you say their best evidence, their best intelligence indicates what you just said. But the president said
yesterday, despite what Americans may hear in the coming days from the CIA we may never know all the facts.
How troubling is that, again, about America’s foremost foreign intelligence agency?
PANETTA: Well, it raises the tremendous concerns. I mean, the president did this with regards to the finding by 17 intelligence agencies that
Russia had deliberately interfered in our election process and yet, he decided to accept Putin’s word that he had nothing to do with it.
Now, with regards to Saudi Arabia, he’s repeating the same mistake. The intelligence officials, the CIA have produced a very strong evidence of
what happened there. And the president, rather than accepting the word of his own intelligence agencies says that the crown prince has denied this,
others have denied it, maybe he did maybe he didn’t, trying to somehow find a way to excuse that kind of behavior.
Not recognizing that by doing that he is sending a terrible message to the world that the United States, which, you know, our greatest strength is
adhering to a high moral standard and adhering to our values as a country that somehow, we’re going to throw all of that out of the window in order
to make sure that we protect our relationship with Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s now talk about how we led into this a little bit that was several senators from the Republican party who condemned the statement
and who talked exactly as you have just said about not abandoning America’s moral imperative and the high ground that it occupies there.
One could be forgiven for believing that the senators perhaps didn’t consider themselves game changers or able to actually affect the situation,
perhaps they should, you know, try to figure out what their role is as a coequal branch under the constitution.
What do you think, and this is the key, that they can or should do? What is the right way for the American government in all its aspects to deal in
a case like this?
PANETTA: Well, the better approach for the president would have been to acknowledge the truth of what we know about this incident and make clear
that he is going to work with the leadership and the Congress to develop targeted sanctions against Saudi Arabia in order to make clear to Saudi
Arabia that this behavior is unacceptable.
So, it would have been far better for the president to say that he’s going to work with the Congress to develop the approaches that are important to
show the world that we are not going to ignore what happened here.
Now, what’s happened is that the president is basically walking away from this, he’s going to Mar-a-Lago to play golf and he leaves the Congress
responsible for taking action here. And the fact is, this is really the responsibility of the president. He can’t advocate that responsibility.
Now, what will happen is that the Congress will try to determine what steps they should take, but that ought to be a partnership between the president
and the Congress in order to make clear that the United States is unified in opposition to what happened with regards to Khashoggi.
AMANPOUR: Well, apparently some members of Congress including Bob Corker who we quoted there have sent a letter to the White House, calling for the
kind of investigation and the kind of answers that could lead to the Magnitsky Act and sanctions under the Magnitsky Act to be enforced. Where
do you think they will get with that demands from the White House?
PANETTA: Well, you know, the statement by the president yesterday, I think, indicates that this White House is not going to be very cooperative
with that kind of effort. Now, maybe that will change. I don’t know. If they recognize that the Congress may very well take action on its own, it
would seem to me that the president would want to cooperate with the Congress in that effort.
But I think it’s important for Congress to move forward, to get all of the evidence that has been gathered by our intelligence agencies as well as
others, to conduct whatever additional investigation they feel is necessary. But in the end, to take action here. We cannot just walk away
from this. We have to take action to make clear to the world that the United States stands by its values and by its abhorrence to this kind of
brutal murder that took place.
AMANPOUR: Before I ask you to think about what kind of action and what kind of precedence there are when an ally commits something so egregious, I
want you to explore with us the reasons why, President Trump’s reasons why he’s sticking with Saudi Arabia or, at least, his stated reasons.
He tweeted today, “Oil prices getting low. Great. Like a big tax cut for America and the world. Enjoyed. $54 was just $82. Thank you to Saudi
Arabia but let’s go lower.” OK. that’s one thing. Then, yesterday, in the midst of all this as he was explaining this, he said this about arm
sales, let’s just play what he said.
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TRUMP: This about America first. Their bank has $400 billion plus to purchase and invest in our country, that’s probably the biggest amount ever
United States. We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars at orders and let Russia, China and everybody else have them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, there you have it. It’s the old — age old sort of Trumpian transactional response to many, many things. That’s his foreign policy and
he’s proud of it. It’s — as far as he’s concerned, it’s America first, hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
But we’ve done a lot of fact checking and we’re not the only ones, we’ve taken it from open sources that there is no $450 of arm sales have been
affected. Apparently, we think only about $14.5 billion according to the officials so far. There are no hundreds of thousands of jobs that may
result, maybe according to the State Department, some maybe tens of thousands.
So, what do you know to be the facts, because you served under President Obama and there was a massive arms deal then? And are these reasons good
enough reasons for the president to stick with Saudi Arabia?
PANETTA: I think the danger here is that, you know, the president may talk about America first. But essentially, what he’s saying is America is for
sale to the highest bidder. We’re embracing the values of arms merchants, which is to sell arms to whoever regardless of what they may or may not do.
And that undermines the basic leadership of the United States in the world.
The reason we are — we have been leaders in the world is because not just our military power, not just our economic power but our moral power and the
fact that we believe in a set of values that we adhere to. You can’t throw all of that out of the window in order to sell ourselves to the highest
And besides that, this is not about dollars and cents, it’s about our national security, it’s about our national standing in the world.
The fact is that Saudi Arabia — and by the way the numbers that you expressed are correct. The president may talk about hundreds of billions
of dollars of arms sales, the fact is, they’ve only committed to about $14 billion in sales.
We have gone through this before with Saudi Arabia. They’re not going to walk away from the United States and go elsewhere. They are very dependent
on the United States. And so, the issue here is how do you take steps to make clear to Saudi Arabia and the world that what they did with Khashoggi
is intolerable and unacceptable. And at the same time, obviously, continuing relationship with Saudi Arabia with regards to some of the other
issues we deal with.
We can do that. The United States is big enough to be able to handle that. After all, we have applied sanctions against North Korea and yet the
president wants to talk to the head of North Korea. We’ve applied sanctions against Iran and he’s trying to find some way to find a
diplomatic solution there. We have applied tariffs to China, we’ve applied tariffs to Europe and yet we continue to have a diplomatic relationship
with all of those countries.
So, this isn’t a choice between totally destroying our relationship and somehow doing nothing. It is finding the right balance to make very clear
to the world that this behavior is unacceptable and at the same time make clear that we will find ways to continue our diplomatic relationship with
Saudi Arabia. That is the proper and most effective way for the United States to act here.
AMANPOUR: Well, I really appreciate that nuance and that diplomatic explanation to what could and should be done. So, now, let’s just continue
one of the reasons that President Trump sides, and that is Iran. You heard what he said, maybe MBS knew, maybe he didn’t know. And then immediately,
he pivoted to Iran.
Well, Iran has responded as you can imagine with great anger and it’s also somewhat tongue in cheek sarcasm. The foreign minister there said, “Maybe
we started the California fires as well,” you know, sort of saying that this is just excessive, the Iran statement in the middle of the statement
So, what about Iran? I mean, somewhat — I mean, what about Iran? Is it zero-sum game, again, regarding Saudi Arabia and Iran?
PANETTA: You know, the — I think it was Secretary of State Pompeo said that it’s a mean and ugly world. And that’s true, it’s a mean and ugly
world. But that doesn’t mean that the United States has to suddenly sell out on who we are in order to be mean and ugly with everybody else.
The reality is that we can deal with these challenges. We have to provide the leadership, obviously, to try to deal with Iran, try to deal with
terrorism, try to deal with Syria. And we should, obviously, work with others in that effort. But it doesn’t mean that we have to sell out on who
we are and what the United States is all about. We can do this.
We’ve had diplomats in the past who’ve been able to do this, the Jim Bakers of the world, Franklin Roosevelts of the world, Ronald Reagans of the
world, who have had to deal with these kinds of situations and yet, at the same time, build alliances, build relationships but not sell out on who we
are as a country. We can do that.
And honestly, President Trump has to recognize that what he’s doing in this situation is sending a message of weakness to the world, that somehow the
United States, my goodness, we have — we’re selling all of these arms, we have all of these other problems we have to deal with, so we’re just going
to sell out on who we are as a people, that’s wrong and it’s sending the wrong message to the world and it’s weakening our position in the world.
AMANPOUR: Well, on that message to the world that you’re saying, obviously, it’s sending messages both to adversaries and allies. So, there
was a recent meeting called the Halifax Forum in Canada, lots and lots of allies go there and it’s a yearly meeting apparently, no administration
officials came, although a handful of Congress people came but not very high profile but they were desperately trying to assure the rest of the
U.S. allies, that the American leadership, as far as they was concerned, still continue.
But they — you know, the word from there was, you know, allies are grieving the loss of an America they believed in as it sinks in that they
cannot rely on us any longer. This is this is one of the newspapers that wrote about it. Allies are exhausted, they just don’t believe even the
congressional reassuring voices or those in the administration, they’re tired of tuning into the militias circus of American politics and policies,
they’re exhausted with our solipsism and drama and disappointed with our indifference to anyone else’s problems and politics. And they are
resigning themselves to a world without American leadership. Do you feel that when you talk to people and what would your answer be?
PANETTA: I don’t think there’s any question that the rest of the world is literally astonished at what’s happening with the United States. They
don’t trust the United States, they see this erratic leader that we have and they just don’t know what direction to take. The United States has
been a leader in the free world since World War II. And we have been a leader because people can rely on who we are and what we believe in and
that we will be honest with them about what needs to be done.
What is happened with this president is that he has engaged in chaos, he’s taken the same kind of approach he did as a New York developer, which is to
basically blow up deals, blow up situations knowing that people would ultimately come back and fix it. That’s the way he’s approached foreign
policy. It’s a policy of chaos, tear up the Climate Change Agreement, tear up TTP, tear up the Iran Agreement, impose tariffs. But he doesn’t have a
strategy how he goes beyond that.
So, we’re dealing with a great deal of chaos right now and not much in terms of what is the long-range strategy. The real test for this
administration is whether or not they are going to ever sit down and develop a long-range strategy to basically resolve the chaos that this
president has gotten us into. I don’t know the answer to that and the world doesn’t know the answer to that. And that’s what makes this a very
dangerous situation in the world today.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me just sum it up then. Some of how people are viewing it in the United States, “The Washington Post” CEO has said, you
know, of course, of Jamal Khashoggi, for instance, you know, worked for them, that President Trump is placing personal relationships and commercial
interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
At the “Committee to Protect Journalists” gala where journalists who are imprisoned around the world and who face a lot more danger now since the
whole president of the United States is beating up on journalists, after yesterday’s statement, the CPJ said, “If you boil the White House statement
down to its essence, President Trump has just asserted that if you do enough business with the United States you’re free to murder journalists.”
That’s an appalling message to send to Saudi Arabia and the world.
I mean, perhaps that is it, that’s as much of an answer as we can get to the question that you’ve asked. But I wonder whether you can put on your
defense secretary hat and talk a little bit about President Trump’s love- hate relationship with the military. He’s been beating up on the leader and you were in the administration when they caught Osama bin Laden. So,
you can talk about this on the military leader who directed and oversaw that operation.
And then, of course, we’ve got the instance of sending troops down to the southern border to face a non-existent invasion and maybe to just bring
them back again once that particular rotation and deployment ends mid- December. Tell me a little about first about what you think about the attack on the bin Laden mastermind.
PANETTA: Well, I was CIA director of when we conducted that operation. And by the way, we did not brief know Admiral McRaven on the location of
that compound until sometime in late January of 2011. And within 100 days, Admiral McRaven had conducted that mission and killed bin Laden. And they
did it in a very brave and courageous counterterrorism mission.
So, the president was wrong to accuse Admiral McRaven of somehow not getting bin Laden earlier, that was just way off base. Look, presidents of
the United States, as commander in chief, have to be individuals that do not use the military for political purposes, do not use the military for
their own personal purposes, but rather use the military to protect our national security interests. That’s what presidents are supposed to do.
This president has had a tendency to think that the entire federal government somehow operates for his own personal use without having any
responsibility to doing what is right, that’s wrong. And he’s been sending that message. He did not go to the cemetery in France because it was
raining, he did not attend Arlington Cemetery here because he was tired, he’s been deploying our forces to the border as if somehow our military
forces can’t engage in law enforcement roles, which they are prohibited from doing.
These are steps — plus his attack on Admiral McRaven and John McCain. All of that send signals to our men and women in uniform that they are putting
their lives on the line somehow not for the national security interest of the United States but to somehow serve this president’s personal will.
That is wrong. That’s not the case.
They are putting their lives on the line in order to protect our country. And very frankly, that’s what the president of the Unites States ought to
be doing as well.
AMANPOUR: Really important to remember that it’s country first. Leon Panetta, thank you so much, former CIA director, former defense secretary
and a whole host of other jobs that you’ve held that make you so valuable in trying to get analysis on these really turbulent times, thank you for
And we turn now to Nigeria, which is an African powerhouse. It has incredible promise but also incredible difficulties. It is gearing up for
its next presidential election. Since the end of military rule in 1999, every Nigerian president has come from one of two major political parties.
Until now, Oby Ezekwesili, she is an outsider, she’s an anti-corruption activist who wants to become Nigeria’s first female president. She co-
founded Transparency International, the anti-corruption agency, and she spearheaded bring back our girls to free hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped
by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
She also wants to help alleviate the massive incoming inequality among Nigerians. For example, only 5 percent of the population there is said to
have health insurance. The rest, no matter how poor have to pay or stay in hospital until they or their relatives can pay.
I spoke to her recently between campaign stops to ask how she thinks she can make a dent against the current president and the former vice president
who have both running for president now.
Oby Ezekwesili, welcome to the program.
OBY EZEKWESILI, NIGERIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Would I be right in saying that yours is a real long shot candidacy, you know, one of the smaller parties, the main established
parties are kind of duking it out between themselves? What do you really expect to achieve by running for president?
EZEKWESILI: I hope to disrupt the politics of failure, the politics of bad governance and bad leadership that has only produced this small result.
Such that today, Nigeria as the world capital of extreme poverty, certainly unacceptable. That’s what I intend to do, to disrupt this and build a
nation that is based on prosperity, stability, cohesion and equality of opportunity for our people.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s break this down because we have a graphic that shows that Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s greatest
concentration of extreme poverty, 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty and it’s growing by six people per minute.
I guess what everybody will want to know is this, Nigeria is known for rampant corruption. I mean, unbelievable amounts of corruption. It is
also a really potentially rich state with all your oil, with all your natural resources. I mean, how is it possible that 87 million Nigerians
live at the poverty line or below?
EZEKWESILI: It is the — it is what happens when there is a bad governance. Bad governance is so endemic when there are no expectations of
results from those that govern society. And therefore, there is no demand for accountability. And if and when there is demand for accountability,
there’s no incentive on the part of the people who govern to produce results.
I was one of the co-founders of Transparency International and we know that corruption is a tax on the poor and we already know that there are ways to
tackle corruption. To prevent opportunities for corruption you reduce corruption. And part of what my agenda is, is to deregulate the economy in
the kind of way that public officials don’t have too much presence in the economy, to be able to utilize it for personal gain.
And also, to compliment actions on the prevention side, which is system that punishes corruption every time it happens. Because then, you create a
deterrence against that very malignant cancerous action that has kept our country under developed, less modern at anything that we could have
imagined at independence.
AMANPOUR: Yes. You know, it is extraordinary because all those things you say make us sit back and take notice, particularly because we see so much
Nigerian money coming out of Nigeria, spent in the West on high-end real estate, on all sorts of, you know, playground of the rich and the powerful.
And I guess I’m trying to figure out, other people have complained as well, including the current president about corruption, they’ve all pledged to
somehow wipe it out. How will you take on these vested interests, these people who have, I guess, a reason to keep the system and the status quo?
EZEKWESILI: Well, the society knows me for having taken on them before. I was the one that walked on fixing of our public procurement system. It was
chaotic until I entered government many years ago, (INAUDIBLE) ago. And I effected the reform of the public procurement system and drew initiative
that was called due process, as a result of that work that fix up public procurement that used to be the honeypot of the politicians, the country
began to call me “Madam Due Process.”
So the politicians know me. I am not a stranger to them at all. What I did in extractive industries transparency initiative is well-known,
globally. So I am not one who is going to be fazed by the strength of our political class. I think that the lack of courage on the part of our
society to stare down at these ones who have given us bad governance is now over. It is time to confront it and I believe that I am the candidate of
the Nigerian people.
We are not — I am not running alone, as we say, we are all running, all of us that want a different country, a new direction for our country are
running together. This is a contest between the established class of politicians who have not delivered anything meaningful in governance and
the rest of us, I simply am the candidate who is providing the direction for the rest of society to take on this group.
AMANPOUR: Now, as you mentioned, of course, you’ve been recognized for many of your efforts not just Transparency International, which got you a
Nobel Peace prize nomination but also you spearheaded the Bring Back Our Girls Movement when Boko Haram stole all those hundreds of Nigerian school
Tell me a little bit about how you came to do that? Your experience in public policy in the public sector in Nigeria.
EZEKWESILI: Well, I was — I was saddened, I mean sad is such an underwhelming word to describe how I felt that my society was stealing the
children of the poor who went to school. Girls who went to school.
When I was Minister of Education, one of my reform areas had been in getting more girls to go to school especially in modern Nigeria where for
every five boys in school only one girl would be in school. And so when these girls went to school and were abducted. What I expected from my
government was immediate swift response, but that did not happen and I was completely aghast at it and I decided that on the basis of my shared
humanity with those girls that I was going to be a voice for them until they all come back.
As far as I am concerned, we have no credentials on which to ask girls to go to school around the world until the rest of the world and all of us
especially our government bring the remaining 112 Chibok girls back, as well as Leah Sharibu as well as Alice, a humanitarian aid worker who was
abducted because of meeting the needs of those who are displaced in our country.
AMANPOUR: You bring up another major issue, it’s not just humanitarian, but its security. Your country is in a state of war with Boko Haram. Do
you have a plan for dealing with that aspect at the source, at the root? There’s terrorism and there’s war there.
EZEKWESILI: I think that the number one thing is we had a research at the World Bank that showed that in environments of conflicts, the most
important thing to do is to get that community thinking about jobs again, providing economic livelihoods for the people because that then dries up
the sauces of young people who have no stake in society and who are willing to unleash violence on their own society, so broadening security to be
human security is a major strategy for me and the second bit is to completely overhaul our security system and to ensure that there is
performance, accountability that is tied to results adequacy the top end is to make a lot out of intelligence.
Today’s cutting edge technology means that we can be pre-emptive, we can be proactive. We can be preventive and that means we must walk with our
neighbors. We must walk with the rest of the world that can offer us support in every kind of definition of cutting edge expensive technology
that will enable us to have greater surveillance of our country and people.
AMANPOUR: All the candidates running including yourself are pro-American. You were educated at Harvard for a period of time and it’s the second
richest country in Africa. What kind of relationship would you expect to have with the United States, and particularly, with President Trump who has
his own views about Africa, the transactional relationship and also his own — you’ve heard what he said about a lot of African countries. I don’t
need dot repeat it.
EZEKWESILI: I wouldn’t be dignifying any of the pejorative words that have been used by the President of America. What I would simply do is show to
the President of America that is a contemporary in the leadership of countries.
EZEKWESILI: His country and me leading my own country and what I would try to show clearly to him is that it is of interest to America that he should
maintain the global norms that enable America to be at the leading economy in the world as we watch the trend of the global economy, it is very clear
that even the US needs to continue to do even more with the rest of the world in order to maintain a reasonable level of economic prosperity and
trajectory that it has been known for.
Our country, Nigeria is a leading country in the world. We definitely have a lot of contributions that are notable around the world and we will do
more. Africa is going to be the center of our strategy but, our relationship with the rest of the world is going to be on the basis of its
strategy to be a productive country, a competitive country and a country that actually stakes a claim to the 21st Century.
AMANPOUR: We have a picture of yourself as a child with your father. And he once told you not to dignify a whole load of nonsense. What did he
mean? Tell me about that relationshipo?
EZEKWESILI: It was an amazing relationship. My dad believed that I could do anything and spoke it into me so often that I grew up not allowing
anybody to invalidate me because as I would say to them, my dad already validated me. So there’s no words, there’s not a thing that you say, there
is no opposition to me that can hold me back. My dad said I can do anything I choose to do.
AMANPOUR: So that’s really adorable. It’s really important as well. What is it like as a woman to come up through these political ranks in a male
dominated society and try to fight for the biggest prize?
EZEKWESILI: Leadership is gender neutral. What matters is that I come into these with character, competence and capacity. I can — I am the
better candidate than the men that are in this race, even they would tell you that, so I’m simply going to keep on with the issues that I want to
solve. I’m a problem solver. The country knows me to be that. I am ready to do this. I always say to people who say, well, you’re not a politician.
I say to them, that’s fine. I know one thing, I know one thing and that one thing that I know is how to care for people. That’s what governance
should be about, caring for your people. I bring that into this race alongside my character, competence and capacity. So I am really the
winning candidate in this race.
AMANPOUR: Well, you make a very strong case. Oby Ezekwesili, thank you so much for joining me.
EZEKWESILI: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And as I said, Nigeria is one of Africa’s powerhouse, it is a strong US ally and people go to the polls there in February.
No doubt, Facebook will play a big role in getting out the candidate’s messages, meanwhile the global behemoth is facing its toughest trial yet.
The 34-year-old CEO and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg reins over an empire that is more populous than any country on earth. But he’s facing serious and
ever mounting questions about how his platform is used to spread lies and hate and the bare knuckles tactics he’s been using to respond. Here’s what
he said in an interview just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO AND CHAIRMAN, FACEBOOK: Well, look, there are always going to be issues. If you’re serving a community of more than two billion
people, there’s going to be someone who is posting something that is problematic, that gets through the systems that we have in place no matter
how advanced the systems are.
And I think by and large, a lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we’re going to be real, there is this
bigger picture as well which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering this —
LAURIE SEGALL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: But if we’ve given the world a voice, look at what’s happened in the last year. You’ve had elections in the last
years. Elections manipulated, hate speech that’s gone viral and turned offline, it certainly seems like this mission has been accomplished in
many ways and there’s a whole new set of problems that, perhaps, you guys didn’t foresee and now we’re in a very complicated place where there’s not
an easy solution.
ZUCKERBERG: Yes. These are complex issues that you can’t fix. You manage them on an ongoing basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A lot of people will be hoping they can be fixed. Few people have Zuckerberg’s ear and understanding his business like Tim O’Reilly.
Over decades, he’s been the mediator for honest conversations in the tech industry and he can count among his accomplishments coining the term, Web
AMANPOUR: He sat down with our Walter Isaacson to break down what’s gone awry and how to move forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WALTER ISAACSON, PRESIDENT OF THE ASPEN INSTITUTE: Tim, thank you for joining us.
TIM O’REILLY, FOUNDER, O’REILLY MEDIA: Oh, it’s great to be here.
ISAACSON: Let me dive right into what is a big question of our time. Why has Facebook and Twitter and some of these platforms suddenly become so
divisive of our society rather than connecting us the way that they were supposed to?
O’REILLY: I think the thing that’s so important to understand about these platforms is they are object lessons on how our modern society is built and
how it goes wrong. We have a mythology that we live in a world of free markets, but, in fact, we live in a series of designed ecosystems and these
tech platforms are just the latest and most powerful examples of it. So designers make mistakes.
ISAACSON: So what’s a mistake that was made at the original Facebook?
O’REILLY: It wasn’t really the original Facebook. It was just as time went on, Facebook learned that the way to get more attention was to, you
know, show people more of what they like, and they had a theory that that would make people closer together. Mark really believed that.
ISAACSON: Mark Zuckerberg thought it was going to connect people, which it has done.
O’REILLY: Which it has done, but we saw gradually that there were untoward affects and it spiraled out of control and Facebook is rapidly trying to
come to grips with this. I spent time with Mark and he’s taking it very, very, very seriously.
ISAACSON: But what was built in to it was an incentive for engagement.
O’REILLY: That’s right, and the point is that that incentive turned out to have the wrong impact and one of the —
ISAACSON: Well, give me an example. In other words, engagement tends to be something that would inflame me so it sort of became an inflammatory
O’REILLY: Yes, that’s right. It turns out that what engages people are things that make them mad. I mean, “Fox News” realized this long before
Facebook, but they have built an algorithmic system for reinforcing that engagement by showing people more and more of the things that they like.
ISAACSON: Well, not just things they like, it’s things they’ll engage in, which is things that often get them upset and inflame them and they
O’REILLY: That’s right. But it’s this algorithmic reinforcement. You show people more of what they respond to and of course that becomes a
ISAACSON: Was one of the problems that it is all based on advertising revenue?
O’REILLY: I think you can have that cycle regardless, but yes, I think the need to grow revenue is in some sense, the master algorithm of these
companies and it’s the master algorithm of our society. That’s really the point that I try to make in my book, which is that, it is a real learning
moment here for us.
If you can see that Facebook got their algorithms wrong and we’re asking them to change them, why can we not see the design choices that led, for
example, us to incentivize drug companies to sell opioids, for example, leading to the opioid crisis? It’s exactly parallel. We literally have a
system of incentives in place that told companies that it is okay to maximize for shareholder value, it is okay to tell the FDA, hey, downplay
the risk of addiction here. We tell companies —
ISAACSON: Now did the company —
O’REILLY: That only one thing matters.
ISAACSON: How did we get to a system where the algorithm, not just about technology, but of all of our platforms seems to be focused on this one
O’REILLY: I think it’s really what we believe shapes what we do, our policy makers came to believe something, you know. After World War II, for
example, we believed that we wanted full employment, we believed that we needed to rebuild — we learned the lessons of World War I. We didn’t want
to go down that path again. We wanted to rebuild Europe and Japan after World War II. We weren’t going to go down the slippery slope of a great
So we put in place policies for that and then we forgot. And then we had a theory that said, well, we really have to improve performance of our
companies and we’re serious of people kind of putting out this idea of shareholder value and people said that sounds like a good idea. Let’s try
it. In fact, it worked at first.
ISAACSON: But do you really think that was the main cause of Facebook going down this route that has led us —
O’REILLY: No, no. The point I’m making is that when you design a system, you have a theory about what works and we are designing incredibly complex
systems today that we don’t really understand and that’s the real fear of AI.
O’REILLY: It’s not of the rogue AI that’s independent of us that becomes artificially intelligent, it really should be that we’re building these
hybrid systems of humans and machines that are incredibly complex that we don’t fully understand, so we’re all like Mickey Mouse in the “Sorcerer’s
Apprentice” in Disney’s version. We have this idea, we got the master spell book and we’re trying out some spells and after a while, we suddenly
find out that things aren’t turning out as we expected and so the —
ISAACSON: Is that because its algorithm driven too and we lose a bit of the control?
O’REILLY: That’s right. I think we have to understand that our society is increasingly algorithm driven and it’s not just the tech platforms. It’s
really across our systems, but tech also gives us the recipe for success.
ISAACSON: You once said that technology is the canary in the coal mine, explain what you meant by that?
O’REILLY: Well, the point really is that we very often as we talk about the problems of Facebook and Twitter today, we act as though it’s just
Facebook and Twitter. It’s just a problem with tech, and my point is that they are just showing us in a very obvious way what happens when you have
these high-speed — I call them in my book hybrid AIs, because they’re hybrid artificial intelligence, massive collections of humans in the case
of Facebook, two billion humans connected in this network and basically, the human intelligence is augmented in some good ways, but also amplified
in unexpected ways by the algorithms which are being designed.
And it’s a little bit like the early days of flight when they were trying to figure out how to fly. We’re trying to figure out how do you weave
billions of people into this dynamic system and we have not figured out the equivalent of aeronautics yet.
ISAACSON: Can an algorithm with racist?
O’REILLY: Absolutely. That’s of course one of the things we’ve learned increasingly as we look at the design of algorithms, the data that you feed
into them particularly as we move into AI style algorithms which learn from the data. If you feed them biased data, they will come out very biased and
that’s sort of another version of what we see here on Facebook, the fact that the machines can amplify a human bias —
ISAACSON: In other words, by reinforcing what already excites us, the algorithm learns and feeds us more of that which then reinforces our
O’REILLY: That’s right. Well, in the case of these learning algorithms, you have to understand — let’s say a predictive policing algorithm. In
that case, it’s not necessarily dynamic, it’s just that the algorithm is actually — as they call trained by feeding it lots and lots of historical
data and it says people of color are more likely to commit crimes, well that’s because for 40 years, they’ve been arrested at higher rates because
of biased policing.
And so if that turns out to be the case, the predictive policing algorithm is also going to repeat that process, you know. A white person gets picked
up with drugs, they get a slap on the wrist. A black person goes to jail and oh, well, guess what, I got encoded …
ISAACSON: But what if the algorithm is not just bias but it goes against some of our values?
O’REILLY: To me one of the really big opportunities here is that the algorithm is in many cases a mirror for our values and once we have encoded
it into an algorithm, it can show us what our values actually are —
ISAACSON: Until we could tweak it.
O’REILLY: Yes, that’s right.
ISAACSON: Or even say, hold on hold on.
O’REILLY: That’s right.
ISAACSON: We now see what’s gotten encoded and we don’t like it. So what advice have you given Mark Zuckerberg to make the platform better?
O’REILLY: Well, the first piece of advice I’ve given him is to stop this idea that he can somehow discover the values of all the people in the
network and algorithmically reflect those values. I said, first and foremost, it has to reflect your values because you, and when I say you, I
don’t mean, you just Mark personally, but you the organization, are, in fact, curating the news feed.
Facebook and Twitter actually have been making choices about what to reinforce and those choices are a reflection of their values and their
value so far has been, we want more attention and that value has turned out to be not very good values.
So now they have to say we need a much more complex set of values, so my advice has been you have to really interrogate your values and you have to
decide, these are the things that we’re going to encode into our system because we’re going to respect the laws of the countries in which we
operate. Oh, but these might be unjust laws from some countries that we’re not going to respect.
ISAACSON: Things like Facebook are now in the middle, they’re curating, they’re taking responsibility for what they do but they’re sort of a
platform where anybody can speak. Do we need a new set of rules for these hybrids?
O’REILLY: I think absolutely, we need a new set of rules, because they are, in fact, not creating the content but they are curating the content
and so they have to be responsible for what they curate and how they curate.
ISAACSON: Does that Facebook should have taken off Alex Jones?
O’REILLY: The question I don’t know should be take-off anything. The question should be how do you promote it because if, for example, you are
doing a good job of taking multiple factors into account, you might say, well, lots of people want to see this, but, you know, lots of people seem
to want to see Nigerian scams, too, but we don’t show those.
ISAACSON: But people want to see all sorts of things from dogs playing the piano or whatever, so you have to put your political values in.
O’REILLY: But this is not a question of political values. You look at this and go, this is clearly — is this information for profit? It’s not
actually political speech. It’s commercial speech that’s attempting to deceive people.
ISAACSON: What about Twitter? What do you think went wrong there, if anything to make it seem to be a place where a lot of bullying and hatred
and divisiveness have come to the floor?
O’REILLY: I think in each of these cases, the companies have abdicated — basically, again, with the wrong theory, the wrong theory that they were
neutral platforms and also an incentive in the CDA exception for being a platform —
ISAACSON: The Communications Decency Act says if you police your content, you can be held liable for something that goes on. If you take your hands
off attitude you’re not liable for what goes on. That’s oversimplifying. It’s not what the law intended, but that was the consequence.
O’REILLY: That’s right, and it’s another great example of you can give people the wrong incentives in the design of the system and in this
particular case, based on that theory, they said, oh, okay, we need to be hands off.
ISAACSON: If you could tweak the law just a little bit, what would it be?
O’REILLY: I think first of all, to say, there is a class of platform that is not responsible for the content, but they are responsible for the
curation and that we have to decide what is the responsibility for the curation if you promote things that are harmful to your users.
ISAACSON: That’s a very interesting and useful distinction. We have platforms, we have publishers and you’re saying create sort of a third
concept which is curators and you have some responsibility but not total responsibility for what’s on.
O’REILLY: That’s correct.
ISAACSON: And allows a Web 2.0 to emerge.
O’REILLY: What you have is responsibility for the curation algorithms that you make. And so think about it a little bit in the case of fraud and
abuse. If you promote a fraud and people are taken in by it, you should be liable.
ISAACSON: And on a positive note, tell me some of the things you’re really optimistic about.
O’REILLY: The thing I am most optimistic about is the human ability to make better choices and to learn from our mistakes and when I look at how
we’ve dealt with past technological disruption, we went through a very dark period in each time as people were struggling and then we figured it out.
Think about the first industrial revolution, think about the children being forced to climb chimneys and, you know, work in factories and we basically
got over that and we started sending them to school instead.
You look at the difference between the choice made after World War I and world war II and we made much better choices to rebuild the world and I
think that we’re about to face a really big set of tests in climate change, for example. We will either rise to those or we will fail miserably, but I
like to think that it’s going to lead to an amazing rethinking of our society.
We have another great set of challenges around this rise of new technologies that will do more of what we used to call white collar job and
they give us again this enormous opportunity to rethink the fundamentals of our economy, to rethink who gets what and why and how do we distribute the
fruits of that immense productivity, because civilization has improved every time we have made humans more productive and the question is not,
should we keep doing that? It’s just like how do we direct it? Do we direct it to solve new problems? Do we direct it to make everyone more
prosperous? And when we do that, we have a very, very bright future.
ISAACSON: Tim, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
O’REILLY: Thank you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: Some great food for thought there.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.