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Interview With Former Prime Minister Of Israel Ehud Barak; Interview With "A Death in Malta" Author And Son Of Murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Paul Caruana Galizia; Interview With Senior Counsel And Director Of Digital Justice And Civil Rights Free Press Nora Benavidez. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 20, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital now the epicenter of this war. Finally, the premature babies are evacuated. We have a report.
And with Israel under pressure to provide evidence, Hamas has a major command center underneath, we talk the day after with former Prime Minister
Then, "A Death in Malta." The son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on continuing his mother's fight for justice.
Plus, the war on information. Hari Sreenivasan looks at the worrying rise in hate speech on social media with civil rights attorney Nora Benavidez.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A death zone, that's how the WHO describes Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital after fact-finding missions there. It is now the focal point of Israel's war on
Hamas. The head of the organization has also condemned the attack on the Indonesian hospital in Gaza, which killed 12 people, including patients,
saying that he is appalled.
Israel says it was responding to fire from within that hospital, and it's increasingly under international pressure to produce concrete evidence that
Hamas uses Al-Shifa as a major command center, something Hamas and hospital officials deny.
Meanwhile, one whole week since the world first saw these images of dozens of critically ill, premature babies, they have at last been evacuated from
Al-Shifa to Egypt, where doctors and nurses were waiting to treat them.
Ehud Barak is the former prime minister of Israel. He's also a former defense minister, and he was chief of the general staff of the IDF. Prime
minister, welcome back to the program.
EHUD BARAK, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Can I just start by asking you to -- what is your view of whether your government, your military has done a good enough job of proving their
claim that there was a major command center and bunker under Al-Shifa?
BARAK: It's already known for many years that they have in the bunkers that originally was built by Israeli constructors underneath Shifa or were used
as a command post of the Hamas and a kind of a junction of several tunnels part of the system.
I don't know to say to what extent it is a major. It's probably not the only kind of command post, several others are under other hospitals or in
other sensitive places, but it's for sure had been used by Hamas even during this conflict.
AMANPOUR: Well, when you say it was built by Israeli engineers, did you misspeak?
BARAK: No, no. You know, decades ago, we were running the place. So, we held them. It's a decade, many decades ago, probably five -- four decades
ago, that we helped them to build these bunkers in order to enable more space for the operation of the hospital within the very limited size of
AMANPOUR: OK. All right. Well, that's, that sort of thrown me a little bit. So, these were there for a long, long time, but you're claiming, or they're
claiming, that they're used as a major command center. Anyway, the fact of the matter is, that as yet they have not shown conclusive proof of that.
So, may I ask you what you --
BARAK: OK. Christiane.
BARAK: Wait a minute. It's not easy. We take care not to hurt the operation of the hospital. So, we warned for many days that we are going to come
there. Then we came very close, very cautiously in order to avoid a loss of life among the doctors, the patients or the, or the nurses there.
So, as a result of it, the Hamas had all the time in the world to try to clean it, to try to erase it, to try to make it less kind of apparent when
you come into that it was in use. But we are confident -- I cannot go into all the intelligence we've got. We are confident that, for years, it is
already used as a kind of major or non-major, but as a command post for Hamas activities in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, Prime Minister, you, as I said, have been a defense minister and chief of the general staff of the IDF. You're a military guy
as well as being a major political person. You know, you say that you've taken a lot of care, but most of the world, including the United States,
believes and has said that you need to take more care, that there are more than 11,000 dead, including at least 4,000 to 5,000 children, and we see
these images. So, I guess my question to you is, would you have conducted this operation like it's being conducted?
BARAK: Look, first of all I'm not sure about the numbers, but even if it's half of the numbers that they've mentioned, it's a major disaster for those
people and we cannot recover their lives. But having said that, following the slaughtering of some -- from 1,200 people and abducting of another 250
we had to operate against the military capabilities of Hamas and its capacity to wane over the Gaza Strip.
This cannot be accomplished from the air, so we have to deploy tens of thousands of pairs of boots on the gun and do it systematically. Probably
there is no other way to do it. And I would basically doing the same way. I cannot go into the tactical details. I'm not even acquainted with them at -
- in real-time right now when we are speaking. But give and take, it's the same kind of operation.
I want just to draw your attention, try to think what an American president would have done if certain corner in the northern west part of Mexico,
around Tijuana, some 120 square miles were held by a terror organization that reigned over the area and at certain Thanksgiving morning thousands of
these -- of his terrorists enter into San Diego and massacred 40,000 Americans. 40,000, that's the equivalent number within 24 hours.
I'm totally confident the American president, as a commander of chief, would order to erase Tijuana from Earth. And I could justify it in a way.
BARAK: So, it's -- you have to come to grip with the fact that we suffered a -- it's not just (INAUDIBLE), it's a crime against humanity --
BARAK: -- in the most barbarian way.
BARAK: You cannot let it still exist --
BARAK: -- when the operation is about to end.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you say it's about to end. OK. Well, we know what the United States did in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, we know that there's a lot
of civilian death, but that also had massive blowback and massive criticism from the International Human Rights Committee, and the people on the
ground, the people left in those places essentially were the terrorists of today, you know, ISIS and the Taliban, and I don't know what. The blowback
So, my question to you is, are you concerned about the increased radicalization after this? And do you believe that Hamas can be actually
BARAK: Look, I am confident that its military capabilities could be eliminated, not to the last RPG or the last rocket, but could be destroyed.
I am confident that its capacity to reign over the Gaza Strip could be destroyed. There will be still a question to whom we will hand over it
But I know as well that unlike Daesh or al Qaeda, who were pariah in the Arab world, backed only by the Wahhabis, probably in Saudi Arabia, the
Hamas is a political movement that, put aside the terror aspect of it, has a much very big support in Egypt, you have the Muslim Brotherhood in
Turkey, the AKP, the, party in power perceives itself as a sister -- kind of ideological -- ideologically sister of Hamas, and the same about one-
third of the parliament in Jordan.
So, they have an ideology, they have a movement. We do not pretend to kill ideologies or to erase dreams and wishes from the minds of people. So, we
are fully realistic. Destroying the military capacity and its capacity to reign over the Gaza Strip, not over 30 or to have a opposition in Egypt.
AMANPOUR: I just want to play a little bit of sound, again, to ask you about proportionality. And it starts with you and what you told me even
before the major air campaign and certainly before the ground invasion occurred.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARAK: Boiling blood is not a good recipe for successful strategic decisions.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: While we sought and got justice, we made mistakes. So, I caution the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage.
JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Let me ask you not to be consumed by rage. Because what makes the difference between a civilized society and
a terrorist group is the respect for human life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, are you comfortable with the -- do you believe that rage is a big motivating factor here? And are you comfortable with the
proportion of death that is happening in Gaza right now?
BARAK: Look, look, rage is very natural kind of instinct in human beings. And in a way, it's a result of evolution and need to survive in tougher
environments. At the same time, I repeat what I have said, that boiling blood is not a good kind of a guide for strategic purposes. And the other
voices I have heard from just means that old people give clever advice to the younger ones.
So -- but having said that, I should tell you that we are acting, doing our best. We feel fully committed to international law, fully committed to this
principle of proportionality. We are doing our best. We once and again warn every place that we are going to attack.
And I recommend to all of us to look to the causal chain of what causes the death of people. On the Israeli side, the slaughtering were done by these
barbarian terrorists. On the Gaza government side, it was done by them, by the same terrorist in a different way. They put a gun to the temple of
these civilians and blocked them from moving to the safe place at the southern side of the Gaza Strip. As a result of it, they held them as a
human shield, deliberately, being fully aware of what they are doing, and I don't see a way to relieve them from the responsibility for this --
BARAK: -- loss of life. We cannot afford to give an impunity to the Hamas just by allowing them to have their own people at a handgun to protect
AMANPOUR: So, then let me ask you this. I know that's the position of the government. Can you tell me then, how one can justify the position of the
current government and the current prime minister who, as we know from open-source material reports, his own words, in fact, you tell me because
you were there, how did he have a strategy for Hamas in Gaza? You tell us.
BARAK: Look, I said once and again, I can repeat it here in English, but I say it also in Hebrew, Netanyahu had a grave mistake about the strategy.
Well, some five years ago, some people will tell you, more than five years ago, he shaped a strategy as he defined it, whoever wants to make sure that
we can block any possibility of a two-state solution has to support my position of keeping the Hamas strengthened and kicking and alive.
He was even ready to bribe them with protection money that came in cash from Qatar, and to weaken the Palestinian Authority, rather than the other
way around. And I belong to about half of the public in Israel who believe that two-state solution is the only viable solution in the long-term.
It's probably not, once again, the right time, because two people are still motivated by the instinct of rage and their boiling blood, but it become --
we strongly believe that that's the only viable option, not because of justice for the Palestinians, which is not my highest priority, but it's a
justifiable one for them, it's because of the compelling imperative for us, Israel, in order to protect our own security, our own future, our own
identity, that we need to have this two-state solution.
And I strongly believe that a line could be delineated within the promised land, within which we'll have 80 percent of the settlers and all our
strategic interests, and we'll spread on a single digit number of percent of the overall area of the West Bank, to live side by side with a
demilitarized but viable Palestinian State that controls both this part of the Gaza Strip and this part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
And we need it for our own future, but it's not a secret that a little bit more than half of the Israeli public feel that the great vision is one
state. I think that it's a disaster. But we are a democratic state, so we have to convince them, not to coerce them. And that's a big challenge,
especially following October 7th, when some people are motivated by the event to go even -- to be more extreme in demanding revenge, and some of
them think that there is no way to survive in the Middle East unless you adapt these barbarian rules.
And of course, that's only a slim minority, but basically, it's not easy to convince after October 7th the Israeli public that the two-state solution
still remain the only viable one on the long range -- long-term.
AMANPOUR: So, as you said that Netanyahu does not want that, and nor does his coalition partners, and you've talked about public opinion in Israel.
Public opinion is also very, very clear in Israel, that the vast majority of people want him to go, now or after this military.
Yair Lapid, the former prime minister, has come out and said he needs to go now. Do you agree with that?
BARAK: I agree, you know, Vox Populi Vox Dei on this subject. 80 percent of the public answer now in polls. 80 percent they believe that Netanyahu is
the main responsible for this whole blunder, which is unprecedented in the history of the country. 70 plus percent believe that he has to resign.
About half of them say he has to resign immediately, another half said he has to resign after the war.
But in Israel, war is something very short. The most successful war we had in the last 75 years took less than a week, the six days war. The most
demanding one, in '73, the Yom Kippur War, took less than three weeks. The longest conflict was five years ago with the Hamas in Gaza, and it took
less than two months. So, people think a very short-term.
If you have been asked -- I believe that all of them would say he has to resign immediately if they would understand that reality and probably some
subconscious wishes of Netanyahu will hope that the war will take a year or probably more than a year and it could have -- it could happen.
So, I think that when the -- all the 80 percent, you know, that thinks that he's responsible include a majority of his own voters. And 70 plus percent
want him to resign include some 40 or 50 percent of his own voters. If you lost the trust of the people who nominated you prime minister, that's the
time to leave.
AMANPOUR: And do you think he should go now?
BARAK: Excuse me?
AMANPOUR: Do you think he should go now?
BARAK: Yes. I told you, I follow the Vox Populi. It's -- that the demand -- my demand is not important. I'm only one voice and I'm known to be the
harshest critic probably of Netanyahu. So, I'm not counted in the same as an unbiased source. But when the polls show that 70 plus percent of the
people want him to resign, he has to resign. In a normal country, he would have resigned. October 8th, at most of the evening.
And in the U.K. if he would not have resigned alone, his own cabinet minister would join the next noon and inviting him to a lunch, at the end
of which he would announce that he decided to resign.
AMANPOUR: All right. Ehud Barak, former prime minister, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
And we turn now to those critically ill newborns who have been evacuated from Gaza to Egypt for life-saving treatment. Eleni Giokos has their story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Wheeled to safety as they make their way from chaos to calm. Finally, in Egypt. A race against time to get
them out, but a delicate process to move them.
The journey to bring them here, long and arduous. Cries for help from the war's tiniest victims. Their first stop, the Al-Helal L-Emirati Hospital in
Rafah. 28 babies made the grueling journey from Gaza. Their condition, doctors say, delicate and difficult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are conducting tests on all of those babies, and they were given fluids and needed medication according to
their condition. For now, they are in a difficult, stable condition, but this condition might deteriorate.
GIOKOS (voiceover): Now, the WHO says many of them are in critical condition, and all are fighting infections. They've endured life-
threatening ordeals trapped inside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the war raged around the hospital complex last week.
Al-Shifa ran out of oxygen, clean water and fuel. Moved by hand and laid on these beds, no incubators and placed next to hot water bottles to stay
warm. Doctors say five of the babies didn't make it. Conditions too harsh for such vulnerable patients.
But ultimately, it was the war in and around Al-Shifa that made their evacuation complex and dangerous.
The Egyptians waiting for over a week at the border, disappointed day after day, knowing that every minute counted. But the decision out of their hands
to get these babies to safety.
For this father, after weeks of living in fear after being separated with his son, finally reunited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank God. We now feel that our son is safe after not seeing him for more than two weeks. We didn't know
whether he was dead or alive.
GIOKOS (voiceover): Only four mothers and six nurses accompanied the 28 babies. Lubna al Saik (ph) describes her nightmare.
LUBNA AL SAIK (PH) (through translator): During the siege, there was no milk. Her condition worsened. She went back to zero, and she relied solely
on artificial oxygen.
GIOKOS (voiceover): As for the others, it is unknown where their parents and family are or if they still alive. Now, in the hands of the Egyptians,
their life's still fragile, their future forever defined by this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Eleni Giokos reporting there from Cairo.
Now, the tremendous loss of life in the Israel Hamas war includes dozens of journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 48
reporters and media workers have been killed in the conflict, making it the deadliest month since the CPJ began gathering data 31 years ago.
Bearing witness, speaking truth to power is a dangerous job, which my next guest knows tragically well. His own mother, the famous Maltese journalist,
Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed by a car bomb in 2017 after devoting her life to unveiling corruption at the highest levels of power. Her son, Paul
Caruana Galizia is now telling his mother's story in a new book called "A Death in Malta," and he's joining me now here in London. Welcome to the
PAUL CARUANA GALIZIA, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: You know, I -- we were just talking before, it must be really tough writing a book about your mother's assassination. You know, I mean,
getting the word -- you know, the story of this amazing journalist out, but you're her son having to relive this all over again.
GALIZIA: So, it was very difficult, but in an unexpected way almost the opposite of what I expected. So, I thought writing about the murder would
be very hard. And of course, it was. But then, by the time I came to write, so much of her assassination had been documented in court, and so much
reporting had been done. I was able to sort of cover it as a reporter.
What I found harder is writing about her life even before journalism. So, what made her want to become someone to report on such high-level
corruption, to take those risks, and to start a family even? And so, it was almost the inverse.
AMANPOUR: And what did you find that you maybe didn't know, that you didn't talk about as her son?
GALIZIA: So, that, for example, when she was 19 years old, in '84, she had been arrested and wrongfully charged for assaulting police officers at a
protest. And now, that experience kind of radicalized her and the way she became a journalist that it was a time when newspapers didn't employ women
as journalists as a matter of policy.
AMANPOUR: In Malta?
GALIZIA: In Malta.
AMANPOUR: As a matter of policy?
GALIZIA: Yes, that's right. So, she was the first woman to write a column, the first person to write a column under their own name. And that was all
very interesting to me. And then, when it came to the corruption stories she reported on much later, there was a lot more detail I learned, and it
made me appreciate just how much she was doing and what she was up against.
AMANPOUR: You were here the day that she was killed, but your brother was there.
GALIZIA: He was there.
AMANPOUR: And he --
GALIZIA: He was there. He was the first person to arrive at the scene of the crime, right? They were working together at home. And it was a Monday
afternoon, the 16th of October, 2017. I know the exact time the bomb went off, right, 2:58pm. I know the message that was used to set it off.
AMANPOUR: A message?
GALIZIA: Yes, that's right.
AMANPOUR: A phone message?
GALIZIA: It was an SMS. And Matthew heard an explosion and he thought to himself, he told me, I knew it was a car bomb straight away, it couldn't
have been anything else. And he ran out of the house and found the car in flames and actually tried to rescue her from the car. And that was very
difficult because I -- you know, I had to ask Matthew to relive that experience in as much detail as possible. And he's also had to relive it in
court, right, because he's now a witness to the murder.
So, in a way, I'm lucky, right? I'm the youngest of three brothers. Together we were able, I think, to do quite a lot, and we depended on each
other a lot.
AMANPOUR: The book has had really tremendous, tremendous reviews. You know, just to remind everybody, because this is also unbelievable, her last post
was, there are crooks everywhere. The situation is desperate. And of course, remember, she wrote a very popular blog, huge, huge readership in
the country. And she was really determined and basically in the face of power, of authority that --
AMANPOUR: -- where there were any links to corruption or whatever. Where did her drive come from? I just want to read from the book. There was a
shyness about her that meant that she always felt more comfortable expressing herself in writing than out loud. I have a trace of that shyness
too, and it reminds me how driven she was to do her work. I love it, she told an interviewer 10 days before her murder. It's a compulsion to write.
GALIZIA: So, I think it comes from her experience of Malta as a child in the '70s, that the country was very closed, there was a rule of law crisis,
there was real political violence. And then, towards the end of the '80s Malta was opening up to the world and democratizing and she thought, at
last the country had changed.
So, she always saw journalism as a way of achieving that political change and getting Maltese people to reflect on themselves and how they want their
country to run. So, when -- starting in 2013, the country reverted to that Malta of her childhood, she was horrified and began seeing it almost as an
obligation, you know, like she's had a compulsion to write about what was happening.
And what was happening, you know, looking back, it kind of Malta represented all these big trends. It was like populism, the rule of law
crisis, in a grain of sand. So, we got a very powerful head of the executive, our Prime Minister Muscat, who began eating away at all our
independent institutions. And then, began privatizing a lot of our state assets.
And my mother kind of exposed one story after another and became really the last functioning institution in the country. So, people no longer turned to
the police because there was so much corruption there or the judiciary, or the security service, they went to her, you know, the last kind of voice
that would expose these things.
AMANPOUR: After she was killed, I spoke to Prime Minister Muscat, he denied all wrongdoing. I'm going to play what he said to me back then in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH MUSCAT, THEN-PRIME MINISTER OF MALTA: She was a very harsh critic of mine. I think the harshest I ever had. She has been writing about me,
against me for the past decade. And we -- you know, we are living in a free world. That's something that we always tolerated in the sense that it's
obviously her right to write these things. It's obviously my right to protect myself if I feel aggrieved in court.
This is a country where rule of law reigns supreme. And I will make sure that justice is done and there will be absolutely no impunity for anyone,
be it from any part of the political spectrum, if there is politics involved in this or from any other sector.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that was him, you know, right after the death. He always denied any wrongdoing. He did eventually resign, but that's because a later
investigation said the state was responsible because it failed to recognize the legion of risk to her life and all the threats and to take the
appropriate steps to protect her.
What has been -- because he said there will be no impunity for those who are discovered to have done this. What has been the results?
GALIZIA: So, so far three men -- actually four men have admitted to their involvement in the murder. So, three hit men and the middle man who was
given a pardon in exchange for evidence. The man who the prosecution says commissioned the murder is awaiting trial, as are three men who are alleged
to be the bomb suppliers. So, that's all with respect to the criminal proceedings.
AMANPOUR: It's a long time if they're still awaiting trial.
GALIZIA: It is a long time. So, a couple of them were arrested in 2019. But it's really through their own various appeals in court that they've delayed
the proceedings. So, we've been working very hard to secure a very fair and very fast trial.
With respect to the corruption, that occurred under and actually by Joseph Muscat's government, there has been actually no progress, right? So, the
public inquiry, and you mentioned, found not only that the state was responsible for my mother's death because it failed to recognize those
risks, but that the institutional failures that enabled her murder were generated by the prime minister's office, right? They said corruption from
the prime minister's office spread like an octopus to all other parts of the state.
And so, there are various corruption stories my mother reported on, right, the privatization of our energy sector, hospital sector, in which the
former prime minister himself is personally implicated. On those cases, we've seen no prosecutions.
AMANPOUR: And has this had any kind of chilling effect on journalism in Malta? Remember, Malta is part of the E.U., and Daphne was one of only two
people that the CPJ, you know, records, ever -- journalists, ever to have been killed in the E.U.
GALIZIA: Yes. So, the effect, the situation for journalists in Malta remains quite risky. So, the public inquiry made a number of
recommendations to generate a safer environment for journalism in Malta. Not a single one of those recommendations has been implemented yet.
We have always maintained, in our campaign, that the best way of protecting investigative journalists is to act on their work. So, with my mother, we
had a situation where she'd report on massive corruption, right? Flows of hundreds of millions of euros. And she'd report them and nothing would
happen, right? No one would be called in for questioning. There'd be no prosecutions. And that is still the case.
We have a very lively press in Malta, very brave journalists, but still, they report on these really shocking stories, right? The former prime
minister himself was recently implicated in this big hospital privatization fraud, and he's yet to be properly prosecuted over that.
AMANPOUR: What about her legacy? How do you reflect? I mean, you've written in the book, I thought of what my mother's thoughts might be now, and what
her last thought was. In that moment of inconsolable aloneness, when she pulled up the handbrake, when she realized what had been done to her, what
did my mother want us to know?
GALIZIA: So, I -- you know, I became a journalist after she was killed, and that's a very personal effect of her legacy, as is this book, it's a kind
of testament to her life and work. My brothers and I have also set up a foundation in her name, and the purpose of that foundation is to secure
justice for her own murder, but also for her stories. And I really believe we'll get there one day.
And once we do, the foundation will then focus on the kind of constitutional reform Malta needs to make sure something like this never
happens again, and actually turn Malta into a positive example of journalism and the rule of law.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's something really to aspire to and to be hopeful.
GALIZIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: But well done with the book. I mean, it's a son's, you know, homage to his mother, an explanation. It's had great, great, reviews. And I
hear you. It must have been so hard to write this.
GALIZIA: Thank you so much. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you, Paul.
GALIZIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, in times of war, disinformation spreads like wildfire. And tech mogul Elon Musk is often criticized for fanning those flames. Several
companies have pulled their ads from his platform X, otherwise Twitter, after he personally endorsed an antisemitic post. Musk denies any
wrongdoing. He says, nothing could be further from the truth. I wish only the best for humanity.
Now, Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights at Free Press joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss why content
moderation is crucial for democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks, Nora Benavidez, thanks so much for joining us.
You are a free speech attorney, yet you also work with the platforms to try to figure out how to navigate these waters these days. And I'm wondering
what you consider the biggest threats to, I guess, balancing digital freedoms with preserving democracy.
NORA BENAVIDEZ, SENIOR COUNSEL AND DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL JUSTICE: Well, thanks so much for having me, Hari. It's an honor.
Look at where we are right now. We're in a moment of one of the biggest geopolitical crises that we've seen and it's playing out on our digital
The biggest social media companies are not stepping up to do their jobs. In fact, over the last year they've been rolling back their policies, laying
off critical teams that are tasked with keeping the platforms healthy and functional. And so, disinformation is rising. Hate is rising on these
platforms and people are hungry for credible information. It's a very dangerous combination. It makes people unaware of really what the stakes
are and what's fact or fiction.
SREENIVASAN: You know, recently we have seen a tremendous activity on social media, especially in the context of the war between Israel and Gaza
right now. And you wrote a recent article, a piece called "Social Media Platform Integrity Matters in Times of War." And you drew particular
attention to the platform X. What do you see there that's troubling?
BENAVIDEZ: Well, Elon Musk has taken one of the most widely used platforms, which wasn't perfect to begin with, but it was functional, and he has
driven it into the ground. He has cut teams that are critical in keeping a platform functional.
He's also done a number of design changes that just make it harder for users to make sense of what they're seeing. He's removed the headline in
link cards. And the biggest change in this context, with respect to Israel and Gaza, is the blue checkmark feature. It used to be a sign of
authenticity, of credibility and trust, and it's now a subscription feature.
So, if you want to pay $8 a month, you have your content boosted more in people's feeds. That feature has been weaponized over the last five or six
weeks. And people who are willing to pay that amount are often bad actors. Sometimes they are spreading unauthenticated content, videos and images
that were misappropriated from totally different places and times in history. So, it's been this chaotic frenzy on Twitter, now X, all thanks to
a year of bad decisions by Elon Musk.
SREENIVASAN: Last week, he had essentially agreed with and supported an idea that was espoused by one of the users that said, this is -- you know,
that basically that accused Jewish people of "hatred against whites," and I don't want to go into the rest of the message and give it a platform that
it doesn't deserve. But Elon Musk's kind of amplification of that and saying that this is, in fact, you have spoken the truth. What does that do?
Because his tweets, almost by engineering, reach practically everyone that's on the platform.
BENAVIDEZ: It's so troubling that there almost aren't words for it, that the world's richest man who bought a platform, out of boredom or interest,
has used it to exert his power and influence. He has an outsized following, and I believe is not somehow above rejiggering the algorithms to make sure
that his content is seen more widely than anyone else's.
So, the content that he posts, the values, the opinions that he promotes are seen by more people than ever. What is he doing with that power and
influence? He's promoting hate. He picks people who promote Nazi sentiment, things that are frankly just terrible to say out loud, and he gives them
amplification. He interacts with them. It's so dangerous.
And in the face of that, the new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has turned around and said, we have no room for antisemitism on this platform, which flies in
the face of everything that her boss has done. So, it's a platform that is unable to reign in hate because the very top is promoting it.
SREENIVASAN: What's been the ripple effect of Elon Musk's decisions in how he chooses to value trust and safety or the veracity of claims that are
made on the platforms? How does that impact Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp or Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube?
BENAVIDEZ: Well, Elon Musk loves to champion that he is a free speech advocate, but he's really anything but that. And his behavior, his
decisions regarding Twitter over the last year point to his almost authoritarian tactics. You know, he decides something is true if he likes
it. And if he doesn't like it, isn't true.
You know, just the last few days of frenzy as he has amplified antisemitic sentiments all flow from very weird veiled exchanges with white supremacist
and Nazi accounts. That's dangerous to begin with. But several advertisers have started pulling their ad revenue from the platform because of his bad
behavior. They've seen that their ads are being featured next to hateful content, and they're saying it's too much.
So, IBM has pulled their ads. And researchers who found that IBM's content was featured next to hate, that organization is called Media Matters. Elon
Musk's response was to call that organization evil, solely for them doing their job.
So, the climate here is that we have a leader in place of a massive, massive social media platform eager to cherry pick speech when he likes it.
And if he doesn't like it, he's going to silence it.
SREENIVASAN: You know, I'd be remiss to have such a conversation with you and not bring up kind of the elephant in the social media space, which is
TikTok. It is by a long shot where so many young people are getting their entertainment and a lot of them are turning to for news and there have been
recently a lot -- there's a lot more scrutiny on whether or not ByteDance, the company that runs TikTok, has been in any way influenced by the Chinese
government putting their thumb on the scale of what type of content is surfacing in larger volumes, especially in the context of the Israel Gaza
BENAVIDEZ: Many people are speculating that TikTok has tried to not get caught. There are so many risks that TikTok and its parent company,
ByteDance, are facing even just in the United States. State lawmakers and federal lawmakers are toying with whether to ban the platform here in the
In one state, that legislation went through and app stores are banned from featuring the platform. There will, of course, be work arounds, but it
poses the question for the platform, how do they maintain good behavior? And frankly, TikTok has actually rolled back less policies than any of the
other platforms over the last year. They've tried to correct whenever their algorithms produce bad results of some sort or down rank certain content of
And so, there's really a question here of, does the threat of regulation help prompt better behavior? If these companies will not regulate
themselves to enhance and protect platform integrity, other actors need to step in, lawmakers, regulators around the world have to take up that task.
SREENIVASAN: You know, while there is bipartisan concern over what role the Chinese government may be playing in TikTok, there's also severe pushback
from conservative Republicans who say that essentially social media is trying to censor Americans with more conservative points of view. Is there
any evidence to what Representative Jim Jordan and so many others say on Capitol Hill?
BENAVIDEZ: This is such an excellent question, Hari. This is one of the most concerning threats right now, I think, that we're seeing in the tech
accountability space. While we have the likes of Elon Musk threatening researchers, then we have lawmakers saying that these platforms are somehow
not neutral, that they are attacking conservatives. That's wrong. And much of the evidence that we have from research studies and others actually show
the opposite, that conservative values and content is not being somehow censored.
So that, frankly, lie has seeped into our public consciousness. It's allowed people to feel like there is some kind of partisanship happening
within these platforms to the point where government officials are now nervous to even communicate with platforms because the risk may seem
somehow that they are pressuring the platforms to take actions. All of that gives the companies, however, licensed to do less, license to ignore
requests for takedowns of violative content, less coordination on national security threats, none of this is good. As we look towards 2024.
SREENIVASAN: We've heard recently that Meta, the company that owns Facebook, is going to allow political advertising in this coming cycle for
2024 in the United States, which might say that the previous election was stolen, even though there's no factual basis to support that.
Now, is that -- should that be protected political speech? What are the ramifications or implications of that? And doesn't -- didn't Facebook have
policies against spreading something like that in the first place?
BENAVIDEZ: That Meta policy isn't even new unfortunately. That has been in effect sadly for many months. And this question around political ads and
free speech is a good one. Advertisers have every right to submit any kind of content they want because that's their free speech, right? They can go
submit whatever it is. It can contain lies or bigotry or truth.
But the companies then, the social media platforms, also then have a right and a duty to uphold basic platform integrity features. Most of the major
platforms have weakened or relaxed how they are now dealing with political ads, which will absolutely lead to disinformation thriving on their
So, that calls into question, you know, how will users interact with ads that contain falsity? How will they interact and who will even see that
content? Currently, these companies operate in almost total opacity. We have very little insight into virality, visibility, how people engage with
content. And so, to better understand it, researchers are trying to investigate, but they're getting attacked for that.
So, to even understand the scope of the problem of what happens when these political ads policies are relaxed, it comes with so many barriers to tech
SREENIVASAN: So, what are the solutions that these platforms can take? Because oftentimes it is challenged by this notion of, well, this just
falls under free speech. You know, we're not here to monitor and police what you might call hate speech. We're going to be here for freedom of
expression in all its forms.
BENAVIDEZ: Well, first, the platform should not be going after researchers who are trying to investigate and understand what's happening on these
platforms. There is a very horrific chilling effect that's happening now within the tech accountability field. People are afraid to investigate and
dig into the data of what's happening on these platforms because they're afraid of being retaliated against or even sued. Elon Musk personally has
gone after researchers for they're doing their jobs.
But there's so much that the companies can do. And I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we're looking at, in the next 12 months, a massive
election season. We're going to see over 40 national elections around the world, and most people will use social media to understand issues of the
day. It is incumbent on the major platforms to reinvest in content moderation and their trust and safety teams.
?Elon Musk, just to name one, he gutted his board of directors, his trust and safety council, there is no director for their trust and safety team,
and he's cut thousands of jobs, most of them, the critical pieces to ethical engineering, A.I., trust and safety. We need those people back. We
need all of these companies to reinvest to make platform integrity a priority. When they don't do that, we've seen that the real-world impact is
on users and democracies.
SREENIVASAN: Where's the incentive for these platforms to take these steps? Because it seems that structurally there'd be a disincentive here. I mean,
all of the -- if I allow, for example, news or political speech on my platform, then there is an expectation that I maintain the integrity of
what's being said, even though I'm not directly responsible for it, most people are going to think I am, right?
So, I wonder what gives Facebook or Google or X any incentive to say, I should be in this space because the return, the way that they probably look
at it on this, is very low and the headache quotient is very high?
BENAVIDEZ: Well, you know, over the last year, free press and other organizations have been working on an initiative called Stop Toxic Twitter.
Part of our work was partnering with brands who ultimately divested from spending on Twitter. For much of the reason that we've discussed today,
they saw that hate was rising and that has made a massive financial dent in Twitter.
That company is now valued at less than half of what Elon Musk bought it for, which helps reinforce that content moderation, that platform
integrity, these values are good for someone's bottom line. And it's a question now of, will other platforms follow suit? Will they see the
writing on the wall that Elon Musk's complete erosion of a functional platform has decimated his bottom line? I hope so. That's the work that
we're now doing.
SREENIVASAN: So, is there something that U.S. regulators can and should do considering that the E.U. has taken a very different approach and, you
know, I don't know exactly how to measure success on what's working there and what's not working here, but are there some lessons that we can take?
BENAVIDEZ: Well, we're waiting to see what compliance will look like for Europe's Digital Services Act. And I'm eager to see that. For any violation
that a company may commit, they'll be fined about 6 percent of their annual revenue. That's a lot of money. I don't even know if Elon Musk could
survive that given how many horrific actions Twitter has taken.
But here in the United States, I would say we have to start with minimizing the data collected about us, because the data collected about us is
ultimately what allows platforms to create different, sometimes discriminatory experiences for us. They use their A.I. tools, their
algorithms to sort through where users can get content, and that ultimately leads to echo chambers, silos and misunderstanding.
So, we need lawmakers to take up that task, to minimize the data collected about us and to prioritize human rights.
SREENIVASAN: Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights at Free Press Nora Benavidez, thanks so much for joining us.
BENAVIDEZ: Thanks so much, Hari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And just to note, CNN has learned from sources that a deal freeing dozens of civilians could be reached within days. Certainly, that
hope has been raised so often. And today, in London, families of Israeli hostages held a press conference. And of course, they begged the world
never to forget the children who've been kidnapped and who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, and of course, those who were killed on October
7th inside Israel.
And finally, tonight, after 77 years, the partnership between President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter has ended. The former First
Lady died on Sunday. She was 96 years old.
It all began in Georgia, 1946, when the two got married shortly after Jimmy graduated from the Naval Academy. She was 18, he was 21.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn helped reinvent the role of first lady. She worked tirelessly on behalf of mental
health. And she also helped revolutionize the post presidency, as the Carters devoted their lives to human rights and to strengthening
democracies around the world.
Jimmy Carter, who stunned even his family by celebrating his 99th birthday in October, eight months after entering hospice care, has said that his
proudest achievement was marrying Rosalind, calling it, the pinnacle of my life.
In a statement, the 99-year-old said Rosalynn was his equal partner in everything they ever accomplished. Over the years, the couple was often
asked to share their thoughts on their enduring marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How has your long and vibrant marriage enriched your life and work?
ROSALYNN CARTER, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: I don't know. I've been married all of my life almost. And I don't know how it could have been enriched
more if it had not been for Jimmy Carter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A marriage of true equals. That is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our
podcast. And remember, you can always catch us online, on our website, and all across social media.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.