March 24, 2021
Mark Zuckerberg launches a new algorithm to weed out politically divisive content, but there's one message he didn't expect.
Mark Zuckerberg launches a new algorithm to weed out politically divisive content, but there's one message he didn't expect.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel convenes a world leader Zoom on gender inequality, the accusations fly fast and furious.
Watch more PUPPET REGIME.
Facebook "refriends" Australia: Last week, Facebook abruptly blocked news from appearing on Australian users' feeds after Canberra proposed a law requiring Big Tech companies pay news outlets for sharing their content. Facebook came under fire globally for banning news sharing in Australia, including crucial public health announcements on COVID. Now, five days later, Facebook has reversed course to suddenly lift the news ban. "Facebook has re-friended Australia," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after speaking with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So, what changed? The two sides say they have reached a compromise, though some details remain murky. The Australian government will make several amendments to the Big Tech bill — including one that will allow Facebook to circumvent the new code and avoid hefty fines — if the social media platform shows a "significant contribution" to Australia's local journalism scene. In theory, this would require Facebook to prove it has cut enough deals with Aussie media companies to pay them for content — but what constitutes "enough" remains unclear. Frydenberg said Australia has been a "proxy battle" for the rest of the globe on Big Tech regulation. Indeed, Europe and the US have been fastidiously taking notes.
Afghan peace talks resume: After a month-long break — during which America inaugurated a new president — US-brokered peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally scheduled to resume on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar. This comes as the Biden administration is reviewing the tenuous peace deal brokered by the Trump administration and the Taliban last year, which stipulates a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of all US combat forces in Afghanistan if the Taliban stop launching deadly attacks (spoiler: they have not). Washington has yet to commit to pulling out some 2,500 US troops that remain there, but US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suggested this week that more progress is needed before a decision can be reached. The Taliban, for their part, are adamant that the US withdraw without further delays. This puts Biden in a tough spot: he supports the previous Trump administration's move to end American involvement in Afghanistan after two decades of war, but worries that a hasty withdrawal will clear the way for the Taliban to push aside the US-backed government and again take over the country. As the May deadline fast approaches, Joe Biden can't stay on the fence for much longer.Filipino nurses for European vaccines: In the latest twist to the Philippines' messy vaccine rollout, the government has now offered to send additional nurses to Germany and the UK... in exchange for an unspecified amount of jabs for Filipino overseas workers. Berlin and London have yet to respond to the bizarre proposal, which comes as Manila seeks to ship more of its labor force to shore up their remittances for the ailing domestic economy. Interestingly, the offer was made public a day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shocked the country by blocking planned purchases of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs to make way for his preferred choice of China's Sinopharm vaccine, which (surprise!) is being pushed by Duterte's own special envoy to China, a former TV host who has applied to be a local distributor for Sinopharm. And it gets better: the same envoy also admitted being inoculated months ago with smuggled doses of the Chinese jab, along with members of Duterte's own security detail. We're watching to see which professional group — seafarers, perhaps? — the Philippines will pitch next as part of its new labor-for-vaccine program.
Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:
What's happening in Texas?
Speaking of weird weather, my goodness yeah, I didn't know this was coming up here. Yeah, it's cold, right? There's snow. It looks horrible and millions of people without energy and of course that is because the level of infrastructure investment into the Texas grid is well below what it needs to be. There's a lack of integration. Texas' grid largely stands by itself. It is not under the authority of or coordinated multilaterally with broader energy infrastructure. And there has been a lot of investment into renewables in Texas. It is certainly true. They've been very interested in that. Sped up under former Governor Perry but still the vast majority of electricity is coming from fossil fuels. It's coming from coal and mostly oil and gas.
And so, all of these people that recently have said it's because of renewables, and you can't rely on renewables and that's why you've got all of these shutdowns in Texas. No, it's because you haven't invested properly in infrastructure resilience. First of all, there's a lot more gas shut down then there is wind shutdown, and you've got temperatures like this in Northern Europe all the time and worse and they don't have this kind of wind shut down because they invest properly in their infrastructure. So, you know, you go to LaGuardia, and we're finally fixing it in New York, but for quite a while a lot of people including Joe Biden said it was like going to a developing country, they said third world country when you look at LaGuardia. Well, when you look at a lot of infrastructure in the US it feels that way and one of the reasons why I strongly support a trillion dollar plus spend after the $1.9 trillion for relief on infrastructure because that's a good investment that will actually return more than the dollars you put in over the long-term. And that's the way you should think about the deficit of whether or not you're getting a better return on your investment. Just like you do for corporations, you do for sovereigns.
The World Trade Organization, WTO, has a new leader. Who is she and what challenges lie ahead?
She is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. And I mean, she's a fixture. I've known her, I've seen her at events for well over a decade. She was the minister of finance for Nigeria. She was the number two at the World Bank. And I mean whether you're talking about Davos or IMF annual meetings, any big multilaterals, her presence there as a technocrat, as a plain smoking, really smart pro-globalization force, is kind of legion. It would be really surprising if she hadn't gotten a major, additional position at some point in her career. WTO was an obvious place for her. Not going to be easy, first of all because big decisions have to be taken unanimously and you've got 160, 170 members of WTO so it's hard to do. Secondly, the WTO needs reform, it needs to be focused much more on digital exchange and trade. It needs to be modernized the way trade agreements, multilateral and bilateral do and that's going to be very hard to do. And of course, the Chinese government, the second most powerful economy in the world routinely abrogates the outcomes that are forced upon it by World Trade Organization judges. So do the Americans not least of which in terms of the US-China trade conflict itself. So, it's not an easy role but I do think that she's going to be seen as very active in it, kind of like Christine Lagarde at the ECB when she got that appointment. I mean, this was completely uncontroversial that she would get this position.
Okay, what's happening between Iran and the US over sanctions?
Not very much. The United States certainly wants to rejoin the old Iranian nuclear deal, but they understand there's a lot of domestic pushback unless it is made tougher or at least broader in terms of how long it lasts as well as involving things like ballistic missile development where the Iranians are in abrogation of the UN security council resolutions. The Iranians are saying, "We'll come back to the JCPO as it was but nothing more." These are hard people to negotiate with. It's a hard government to negotiate with, the bureaucrats there. It took years on the final points under Obama and Kerry and that was when the secretary of state was personally involved. There is no cabinet member in the Biden administration that is personally anywhere close to as invested in getting this Iranian deal done if it's hard as Kerry was five years ago. And so, as a consequence, I think there'll be forward momentum, but I think it's going to be much slower than people expect. Now, there is a point that once you start engaging in negotiations a whole bunch of third countries that were concerned about doing anything that might be seen as gray area in terms of busting sanctions like buying Iranian crude and other sorts of goods will suddenly, you'll see more leakage. And so, the Iranians just by virtue of moving back towards the United States and people getting confident about JCPOA, they won't have another million barrels a day on the market, but you'll start to see slippage, leakage in that and that means that energy prices will start going down a bit.
And Rush Limbaugh at 70 no longer, passed away today. What do I think?
I think that Rush Limbaugh is like a precursor to Mark Zuckerberg. He's someone that became an iconic figure by giving people what they wanted, not what they admitted they wanted but what they actually wanted, figuring out what that was and maximizing his reach and his influence as a consequence of that. Talk radio really became the force that it was in the United States because of Rush and his connection with his audience, his understanding of how the medium worked, his ability to raise extraordinary amounts of advertising revenue that had never been done in radio in a news format before that. All things that he became a unique figure and of course an entire field developed around him. And after talk radio we get cable news; we get Lou Dobbs on CNN even talking about a presidential run at some point. And then of course you get social media and now you have Mark Zuckerberg. And I think that you can draw a line directly between those two men. And I think they both caused a lot of damage internationally and certainly in terms of civil society in the United States but also on this day of Rush's passing to recognize just how well he understood the opportunity that was in front of him and how much he was able to maximize it, kind of a force for capitalism in a country that is most interested in unleashing animal spirits. And there you have it, RIP Rush Limbaugh.
After days of tension and uncertainty, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the US presidential vote -- but how are world leaders like Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and Mark Zuckerberg taking the news?
Watch more PUPPET REGIME
What happened at the antitrust hearings this week?
Well, CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook testified in front of the Subcommittee in Antitrust of the House Judiciary Committee for five hours. There's a fair amount of nonsense and conspiracy talk, but mostly it was a pretty good hearing where the House members dug into questions about whether four companies abused their market positions to their advantage? Whether they used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of the market? Whether they used inside information from their services to identify and then copy and kill competitors? And the evidence that was presented, if I were to sum it up quickly, is, yes, they did do that. They did abuse their market power. But what wasn't presented was clear evidence of consumer harm. We know they acted in ways that distorted capitalism, but were people really hurt? That's a big question. I look forward to their report.
Embattled journalist Maria Ressa talks with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World about how the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered President Rodrigo Duterte's authoritarian approach to governing the Philippines, and how the lockdown there has sparked a social movement among citizens. Duterte's order to kill those breaking quarantine rules, she says, "fueled Filipinos who are stuck at home to go out online, and for the first time, the day after President Duterte said that, #oustDutertenow trended number one overnight and globally as well."