One of the most persistent themes in this podcast has been the shift in the zeitgeist on the relationship between technology and democracy. Ten years ago, it seemed everyone in tech believed that the internet was fostering democracy.
Today, however, more and more techies – particularly some of the more idealistic pioneers of the digital revolution - see the internet as undermining democracy. And there are few more idealistic digital revolutionaries than Peter Sunde, the Nordic co-founder of the file sharing network PirateBay – a man who famously went to jail for his beliefs about free online content.
Yes, as I suggested in my introduction, the zeitgeist certainly has shifted. As Peter Sunde so poignantly put it – “I haven’t changed… It’s the Internet that’s changed.” And what’s changed most of all, Sunde insists, is that Silicon Valley’s winner-take-all companies have turned out to be at least as bad as the companies that they replaced. So, as he argued, the surveillance capitalists at Facebook aren’t any better than the surveillance authoritarians in China. Indeed, Facebook might even be worse because it has the gall to pretend it’s our friend. Meanwhile, he says, YouTube is worse than Pirate Bay in terms of aiding and abetting the theft of online content.
Perhaps the biggest failure of the digital revolution, Sunde hints, is its failure to democratize. Like so many other guests on this show, Sunde sees a connection between the rise of authoritarianism and the dominance of the internet. So on the internet, what’s been lost are the rights of users; while what’s been lost in society are the rights of citizens. Therein lies the tragedy so far of the digital revolution. Like so many other revolutions in history, its outcome is the antithesis of the intentions of its founders. Rather than more online or political democracy, what we are seeing are the rise of both winner-take-all internet companies and entrenched authoritarian governments.
So what to do? Can we rely on new technologies like Blockchain to reestablish the original democratizing ideals of the digital revolution? No. You see, Sunde – who co-founded the deeply disruptive file sharing platform Pirate Bay – no longer believes that technology is the answer to social or political problems. Describing Bitcoin as a scam, he argues that tech can’t fix tech’s problems. It’s just more of the same. More unaccountable billionaires. More Tulip crazes. More exploited online users.
But what we forgot to do first time around, Sunde says, is “regulate”. That’s the real headline of this interview – especially coming from the guy who co-founded the libertarian fantasy of Pirate Bay. It’s the wisdom that Sunde has picked up over the last couple of decades. WE FORGOT TO REGULATE. So that’s what we’ve got to do now. Regulate the winner-take-all companies. Regulate surveillance capitalism. Regulate fake news. Regulate online racism and misogyny.
Yes, of course, there’s a poignant morality tale in Sunde’s personal history. But I think there’s also a cultural lesson here too. As a guy who has lived his whole life in Sweden, Norway and Finland – he is the quintessential Nordic. He’s even spent a year in a Swedish jail writing a screenplay. And it’s his open mindedness, his ability to change his mind and admit he’s wrong, which is what gives his story such credibility. Not all Nordic’s have Sunde’s strength of character, of course, or his propensity to take risks. But Sunde is right to argue that tech can’t solve tech problems. Only humans can. Humans with the civic virtue of guys like Peter Sunde.
Next week we examine the relationship between political democracy and economic globalization with Ian Bremmer, the best-selling author of US AND THEM: THE FAILURE OF GLOBALIZATION. I hope you’ll join me then.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s episode with Peter Sunde, you can find out more about him here:
Please be sure to check out DLD’s up and coming events,
Produced by Jason Sanderson - Podcast Tech
[00:00:00] It's a Sunday. The co-founder of Pirate Bay Peter you can't quite remember when you found it Pirate Bay or when it founded you but you think it was around 2002 or three. What we were trying to do we're trying to democratize the web the world.
[00:00:16] No way. That's a thing that to be honest like we don't really remember when it was founded. Who was part of it. The only thing we remember was that it was a fun project and it was no grand plans or anything about it.
[00:00:29] But what was it. What's your claim to fame.
[00:00:31] Why has it made you into a kind of digital celebrity up there with Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Piper became something rather than what it was and I think it became.
[00:00:42] A community for people that didn't want um the Internet to become a place just for markets. In the core group of Pirate Bay we were three different people. They had three different political beliefs but I think that's kind of what united us was that we wanted an Internet that was controlled by the people and not by companies. And I think that struck a chord with people. Even back at that time when we saw that companies starting to take over the Internet and controlling it more and more.
[00:01:07] So what does that mean Peter controlled by the people. Does that mean that people own the content on the Internet. Does it mean that they were empowered.
[00:01:16] What were you trying to do empower people disrupt old industries.
[00:01:20] I think it was about not accepting that companies are regulated what was the rules for the Internet. We did a lot of. Promotions for people to vote in elections. We didn't tell people what to vote but we wanted people to engage more and I think that's kind of the core of it that we wanted. People to discuss the issues of. Intellectual property which we saw as. At least I saw it as a way of controlling people and then freedom of speech. And access to information all of these things that we were discussing back in that time. Essentially that was why Pirate Bay became much bigger than the other platforms that did the same it was not just about the piracy but it was about why we had piracy and why we wanted piracy.
[00:01:59] Now if I was wearing a Hollywood studio hat or working for one of the big media companies as a lawyer I might say well that's all very well talking about democracy but all it really was was a front for mass larceny people not paying for the music or the movies or the books that the media industry relied on how would you respond to them.
[00:02:20] There's many responses to that. First of all it's not that was not the interesting part of it. It was getting people to have access to this information and spreading culture as we do with libraries. That was our goal. And of course there was a missing link of how to make sure that people. Could pay for it. Let's say that. But also we needed to change kind of how you pay for information where you have all of the information in the world accessible you can't pay a subscription fee of. 60 euros for every newspaper you want to read because you gonna read one article and one of them and then you have two hundred you read. So we saw that everything was very different. So we sold one of the problems with access to information and we discussed and said that now you have a problem that you need to find a business model that suits this. If you want have a business model. But it was not really our big interests in solving that. I of course started a company later a project later that tried to figure out how to do that which is flatter which perhaps will come too late.
[00:03:11] So you founded this I what you would call it a company a platform. It was exciting. Yeah. It's more of a community. You built the technology you you acquired the euro. What did it actually mean to found or co-found Pirate Bay.
[00:03:25] We took a software that was open source. We install it on one server in Mexico that we scrambled to get money for and then basically we edited the code and made it a little bit better every time we needed some new features.
[00:03:40] And then in the end that became the piping and you were based in Sweden or Finland at the time.
[00:03:45] I was based in Sweden. Most of all the people were in Sweden as well. One was in Mexico. Swedish guy but yeah essentially Scandinavian and then part of it was actually in Swedish in the beginning. The idea was to get people to talk about file sharing and the Internet. We were a group called Pirate beat on the bureau for piracy. Which was the guys who founded pipe is one of the projects to have a discussion about the Internet.
[00:04:08] So so in a sense it was a kind of similar at least beginning to Skype was which was also founded in the Nordics.
[00:04:15] Yeah but for different reasons very much that was very much like Cassar which was there. Right. Let's say that first Skype. Yeah. But I think that we came from an ideological. Standpoint. We had a goal in mind and we also wanted to play with technology that was very much part of it. Whereas cosine Skype was very much about finding a business model. Which was the power of pipe. Was that it's never been any sort of business model that's made it. It was the opposite.
[00:04:43] So you founded this thing with a couple of other tech is sort of three or four geeks one based in Mexico. How did that transform into you becoming one of the best known technologists and then outlaw as you went to jail over this. What's this wary of Pirate Bay very briefly at least in your mind.
[00:05:03] Basically Piper grew and we as everyone else doing it grew because people just used it.
[00:05:09] Yay. The ultimate viral success.
[00:05:12] Yeah. It grew steadily by itself. Just word by word of mouth to mouth. And what happened was that. Let's say our competitors I don't want to say that but other people that run file sharing service so well with some examples of the many Nova Torrance by what I saw on some of these guys. Most of the other ones also like a lot of smaller ones. They started closing down because they got a lot of legal threats and when we started receiving them basically we decided that we're going to fight these people. Not like in legal cases like we were totally sure that Piper was legal in Sweden which it was they changed the law. To actually make sure that they could stick something on the Pirate Bay but we replied to Hollywood and the music industry telling them to fuck off and explaining why we don't care about them. So we were maybe a little bit more rebellious than the other ones. I wouldn't say the Piper was better technology because we used the same technology BitTorrent but we had a kind of rebellious side to us that we had a why not only the how but also the White why we wanted to do this and that's. Basically telling people to fuck off always works as great PR. We didn't think about it that way but we published all of these legal threats on part B.
[00:06:23] And people linked to that and people got interested in pirate bay because we have a political movement as much as a file sharing network.
[00:06:29] Yeah and the pirate parties of course were founded after Pirate Bay's kind of let's say success but basically it isn't done in Scandinavia.
[00:06:38] In Europe I would say quite big in Europe.
[00:06:40] When you look back at it now I know you're ambivalent in some ways about the experience of Pirate Bay and its achievements. But what do you think was the greatest accomplishment of Pirate Bay.
[00:06:50] I would say it's that it made people think a little bit more than just swallowing whole propaganda from the copyright industry. So it's a kind of democratized or at least an information democratize it definitely is an eye opener. And I think it's also kind of like people always like the David Blight story and for. There are so many small interesting things like. We had this big raid against The Pirate Bay in 2006 or 2005. I can remember we had a few raids.
[00:07:16] But one off the beaten the police just came into your offices. Yeah. We didn't have offices that's also like the misconception of time that came into your bedroom awesome.
[00:07:23] No they came into a data center where the machines were there and they basically took the machines away from pirate bay. Everything was of course not interesting because it was all backed up anyway somewhere else and there was also peer to peer so you couldn't really. There was no large like streaming network and it would be in today with thousands of machines. So it took three days before we got Pirate Bay up and running again. I think people like that we got it up and running but also like our reply to that was that half a year before it was done for seven days because. Got freed from Pirate Bay got so drunk that they tripped over a cable and destroyed one of the routers. So that was a worse problem for us than 50 cops showing up. Take him the machines like in reality. That's a bigger problem. And you know also then seeing that when Pirate Bay went down almost half of the Internet traffic in Europe disappeared. People realized how big this was and was run by three people with.
[00:08:12] I always say there was one drug addict one alcoholic and the third guy and the other third guys who you can assume that yes. You talk about the copyright industry I I'm a writer. My rent my clothing my kids education is paid for by the money that comes in from my books.
[00:08:28] What's wrong with the copyright industry to begin with copyright had the idea that you would protect the words written in the book so you would be sure that that's the actual wording that the author intended. And I think that the biggest problem was when people started trading. The copyrights started buying the rights from authors from creators and started selling them as some sort of asset assets.
[00:08:50] But does that really give me something. So some of the most egregious examples of them.
[00:08:55] Well in the music industry when you were selling seeds but getting the money back from a seed for an artist would take you like a hundred thousand copies in some cases before we actually made any money because you had to pay back the record companies and all of these things and then they would still own all of the rights in the future. So like basically. I think that's a lot of these companies are marketers that understood that a lot of people just want to get their music out so they made a really crappy deals with them. By putting this idea of becoming like a rock star in front of them like give them a lot of drugs give them whatever they want and then let them throw TV's out of the hotel room when you pay a little bit and then you make billions of them and you keep 99 percent of the money basically yourself as that's the dream of the copyright industry to basically abuse the same people the authors the creators. With the Internet. We had the opportunity of like just cutting out this really. Evil middleman which is the copyrights markets holders. So it was the dream of the Internet disintermediation on a kind of.
[00:09:53] Both a moral and economic sense.
[00:09:55] Yeah. And also by having less middlemen you could also have more access to most people so that we could at least for me a I'm can talk for everyone and partly because we have really different political beliefs. All of us. But for me it was really a way of getting rid of the class of sight not getting the class society copied to the Internet. Because with the internet and access to all information for everyone for free would just be like a. Greatest classless society we have. Which was a potential we had but I don't really see it anymore.
[00:10:23] I know it's hard to generalize on this but what was the reaction of artists of musicians writers journalists filmmakers to Pirate Bay.
[00:10:31] Well very mixed. I would say most of the people I've met I only met like maybe 10 people in my life that were upset with me but including myself. Yeah. But I don't think you're so upset with me. But you're definitely on the list of the few people that were upset because most other people would rather have a problem with basically their labels. So you hate your label you hate your publisher you hate your movie studios so.
[00:10:55] In a sense it was just the kind of karma was it that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
[00:11:00] Also I think a lot of people that are in the creative industry also copy themselves a lot. That's kind of how you make your own art do you copy from someone else and you remake this into this copying and copying this taking an idea and developing it.
[00:11:12] And then as digitally copying a song or not paying for it. Those are different things on there.
[00:11:16] Yes and no. If you look at any big artists music artist today they would have copied all of their plugins for the Q bass line that they're making and then you know I always had this view that if you're making money from someone else's work of course you should pay for it. But those are not the people that we wanted to target with Part B. There were more normal people and we never said that. You know there is. Doesn't need to be a new business model or whatever you want to call it but at the same time. All of these industries. Showed that the industry thrived from having more copies. So we like the more piracy. The more money the industry would make but it wouldn't go to the record companies that would go more directly to the artists and by people going to gigs because they get more interest and more engaged with music or with books and so on. So it created let's say a bigger markets. Instead of like the closed market. So you have the bigger one and then there would be more money into the industry but it wouldn't go to the same people as before which was probably the big problem with this. Most of the bigger artists the bigger authors they were just happy being ready. I know POLLOCK Well you and other people put up their stuff for free on the part Bay themselves. I've been approached by some people that were upset that we didn't put up their stuff on Pirate Bay. I had to explain to them hand that they could do it themselves. Yeah I remember first time I met Amanda Palmer she was a little bit upset that we didn't promoter music on Pirate Bay. Which is an interesting thing because she really understood the power of that but did you promote some stuff over others was that where they're artists or musical styles or genres that you.
[00:12:43] Promoted over other things whether it was Pirate Bay or is Pirate Bay an editorial product.
[00:12:48] No no. That was also one of the key things with TARP it was that we only took down things that didn't have the right description. You could upload a virus if you wanted to. If it said it was a virus. That's OK. Only thing we took away was basically child porn. Never happened really because people wouldn't upload that to a public space like that.
[00:13:06] And although child porn there there is a movement in Scandinavia to legalize child porn as well isn't.
[00:13:11] Rather Holland I would say in Scandinavia blame the Dutch.
[00:13:15] Yeah. So Peter you were a young technologist you're still young relatively young tech already. Yeah I was pretty young. You had a vision an idea a dream of democratizing culture of using technology to do it.
[00:13:28] And you in a sense you succeeded. I mean Pirate Bay became one of the best known platforms for the exchange of content. And yet it didn't quite work out in the way you expected did it.
[00:13:39] Both Yes and no. I travel way too much and I go to some countries that don't have a market and people will come up to me and speak perfect English and explain to me how important pipe has been for their. Getting access to let's say photoshop so that they can get into graphics and now they have a high paying job because of that and they're super happy or they. Learn to speak English so that they could get a job as a support engineer somewhere in the downloaded this and this. And people are always coming up to me when I travel someplace to explain this. And these are always two countries that don't they're not interesting for these big companies to be have marketing. So for me that's a really big success.
[00:14:14] So in a sense it's still democratized culture in a way that gave people access and underprivileged people in smaller markets opportunity to access the dominant culture the language the entertainment is that what you're saying in one way.
[00:14:29] Yes and then the other the other way. I also don't like what Piper has become because it's now become like when we started we had this. We made a decision that one pirate bay turns 10 years old we would close it down because. We always complained about the technologies that were before and the places where report we didn't want to become like a behemoth like Monopoly.
[00:14:46] So it's like the line from the whole song and you die before you get old. Yeah exactly. And also like because we were sued all the time.
[00:14:53] I think would be much cooler that we just decided we're going to close down on this date. Yeah it's not up to you that's just shot the whole thing. Yeah we've done this for 10 years and believing leaving is really important that. It's not easy to replace technology if you have like a behemoth that people are using because it's like with Facebook. Making new Facebook that is like better technology than Facebook is not a question anymore because it's all about the user base.
[00:15:16] And part base become exactly the same. Like all of the people that are into piracy they use the Pirate Bay 95 percent of them. And if you would shut down the pipe that would be such a void that people would have to go to some new place.
[00:15:26] And you're saying that pirate bay even today is has a huge user base. It's a extremely big. It never really declined in usage. So what's the most eye catching stat about today about pirate bay about the amount of people use it. How it today would be like 5 percent of the traffic of the Internet. And then what would be that compared to say YouTube or Netflix. I think Netflix a little bit bigger but that's just because they have Sawai on Netflix or Hulu or. YouTube or Google or Facebook why are they buying you.
[00:15:55] Not you because you're no longer part of it but why aren't they buying.
[00:15:57] They don't have to. First of all there's no business model to it. They would only buy it to close it down because they have deals with someone else. They would get sued. I know them when Google bought YouTube. People think that YouTube started by Google but they bought YouTube and before they bought it they made a deal with all of the Hollywood studios that they wouldn't get sued if they buy it.
[00:16:15] So YouTube began. It's not that different from pirate bay and somewhere much much worse because they host the material. Plus they knew what they were doing.
[00:16:23] They cared about doing it for money. So for me it's like always the funny thing is like we made it so that no one was interested in putting money on the table for us. Actually one time we tried putting Piper on the stock exchange of Sweden. There was a guy who wanted to buy it but then we had a lot of regulations that we wanted everyone to only be able to buy one share and. You know you have company called the pirate down the Swedish stock exchange was trolling basically. So let's personalize this a little bit Pete to you because you may not be Julian Assange or Edward Snowden but.
[00:16:53] Your narrative is an interesting one. What happened particularly to you. That such a striking them from your point of view I assume rather disturbing narrative. What happened with you with you. I mean you you went to jail right. Yeah. Became this. Public enemy number one I guess in a sense in Sweden you became the the epitome of an Internet pirate and you got the book thrown at you by the law. Is that fair.
[00:17:16] Yeah. But also like I went to jail I got a few hundred letters per day.
[00:17:20] Most of the islands you go to jail for I end up spending six months in jail. Why. What was aiding with aiding with possible copyright infringement. So basically enabling stealing online. It's not stealing Andrew. You know this. I know but I'm saying I'm putting it in everyday language somebody it's very different from stealing because I mean somebody drive up to someone. Yeah. And it was like aiding with aiding. Which is like never aiding the this. Yeah. So you're not actually aiding now we're aiding the Zetas which is like let's call it the stretch.
[00:17:47] So you're the only person they could really find is that you couldn't get the aid so they got the person who aided the agents.
[00:17:53] Yeah. Which was not a crime. They just made it into crime. If you look at like the whole court case in Sweden it was the chairman of the pro copyright society was the judge in the case. The jury members were running record companies and were members of the. Political parties that wanted to ban file sharing in Sweden it was policemen who did the investigation was employed by Warner Brothers and NBC Universal during the investigation. It was a lot of let's say embarrassing moments.
[00:18:20] So in your mind the whole system was pretty much rigged.
[00:18:22] The legal case yes. But then if you look at the rest of the case. When you talk I get the feeling that you say it was public enemy number one. But everywhere I go people are happy to see me.
[00:18:32] Everyone loves public enemy number ones don't they I mean these are interesting.
[00:18:36] Yeah but it's not only that because everyone's a user of Pirate Bay. Most people that I meet still are like users have been using it. And they like the fight they like the David Goliath thing. I think the media industry controlling a lot of like what was being published. They didn't like us and they wanted us to look bad at the same time. People in general liked us and because they were. Fans of what we're doing. They liked this style of us telling the. White rich Hollywood people to go fuck themselves. That we wanted to tell them that Sweden is not part of the US. And if you wanted to become part of U.S. law you have to invade us. But some other countries that you don't like with what they're doing. And just the whole style was very appealing to people. So. People in general like me I would say you are a very likable guy.
[00:19:18] Thank you. Even if I don't approve of everything you've done. So you went to jail and I think the interesting twist in the narrative here. I won't put words into your mouth and I'm sure you won't let me put words in your mouth. I wouldn't say that you've had your own digital road to Damascus moment but you've certainly. Changed your opinion both about the Internet and even Pirate Bay.
[00:19:39] When did you come out of jail. It's like four years ago. Over the last few years you've changed. Is that fair.
[00:19:45] No I think the Internet changed. I think that's why we've been.
[00:19:49] On opposite sides of this before.
[00:19:51] You mean you and I am and I think that I had this idea of what the Internet could become.
[00:19:56] And we were on a path. And then you mean this only this I deal of. Yes.
[00:20:01] And the potential of Internet making things better. And then it slowly slowly became.
[00:20:07] The opposite.
[00:20:08] Was there a moment when you saw what Facebook was doing when you saw how powerful Google was. Was there a moment when you realize Oh my God this is really going wrong.
[00:20:16] I have a friend who doesn't like when I tell this story but he was on Facebook. He's a music video producer. It was at the time. And he uploaded his music videos to Facebook. They took them down because he didn't have the copyright where the music in the music is and explained to Facebook that.
[00:20:32] I made these videos. The artist there his own work his work. And they said because it included music from there hours it was copyrighted and it's like but this is my portfolio. So he uploaded them again and Facebook turned off his possibility of uploading videos and said.
[00:20:45] We told you not to have these on Facebook. They were not upset that he uploaded them or like because it would be potential copyright infringement. But he didn't do what they told him. So then he changed a profile picture to basically huge cock. And said like fuck Facebook. So they banned him from Facebook. And what happened when he got banned for Facebook for a while. Is that he no longer had a normal social life because. Everyone had started dividing people to birthday parties not getting people to all everything going on in their life. On Facebook. So he could literally sit on a Saturday evening not being at a party because people didn't invite him because he was not on Facebook and they didn't know him. He just vanished. And they didn't only delete his account they deleted pictures that he was tagged in on other people's accounts.
[00:21:27] Maybe they wouldn't do it today anymore. But so that woke you up. That may generalize that this thing has gone profoundly wrong. You raised him from outside off the Internet as well not only from Facebook but basically it affected his life outside of Internet dramatically to the level that.
[00:21:44] His friends no longer to talk to him the same way because they just assumed you invite everyone on an event on Facebook everyone will come.
[00:21:50] So what was most troubling to you about that anecdote. Was it the sort of the new authoritarianism. Of companies like Facebook. Was it the fact that they could ruin people's lives willfully without even any thought because. Presumably it on the Facebook side it was some small time bureaucrats somewhere making these decisions. Well not exactly Mark Zuckerberg.
[00:22:12] Or maybe it's because Mark Zuckerberg they made that kind of decision or even an algorithm that may not have been a person behind. So for me it was. The thing that was troubling was that we somehow. Slide it into this. Situation where this would happen have such effects on everyday life and we never had a discussion or never had. Someone deciding about the rules and regulations and every time you talked about.
[00:22:35] Regulating the internet. It was not about how to regulate the big corporations and how to get users rights. In Finland we made the Internet human rights only country in the world that I know that made it a human right. And when you say we in Finland I know you split your time between.
[00:22:48] Sweden and Finland so you're kind of both Swedish and finish. I'm not Swedish. I'm Norwegian Finnish. Let's say I'm Nordic. Yeah. You're definitely Nordic.
[00:22:56] Yeah but I think that the focus has always been on regulating what you cannot do on the Internet. And when you cannot do in society because basically Internet and Society is the same thing it's just a different medium for the same discussions and then everything. So for me that was the big troubling situation where. We didn't have the rights as users anymore. We didn't have the normal rights and we didn't talk the discourse was always on how to ban things the use of we're doing instead of making sure that we had user rights to freedom of speech on each of our own data controlling our own identity. One of the guys we've had on this show John Borthwick.
[00:23:32] The CEO of Better works a well-known investor in New York. He thinks that there isn't that much difference between Facebook and China or are you suggesting the same thing that they're both sort of intrinsically authoritarian.
[00:23:43] Of course they are. The problem is that we willingly select to be on Facebook whereas within China you either have to move there we have to be born there. I think Facebook is on a level that's a little bit worse because in China Li worse than China in some levels. Again you can't really compare apples to person. But in many ways. You have this idea that Facebook is your friend in China much like in Stasi Germany people knew who their enemy was. You were aware of being spied on you were thinking about being spied on when you talk to people. You know how to behave there's certain codes. In both China as in and started Germany. And you know who you can talk to and what you can't talk about. On Facebook you don't think about it it just happens. And.
[00:24:22] That is really problematic. The Facebook guys worked in the copyright industry are they equivalent or are they different. Is it apples to oranges again. Facebook is a little bit worse because they meddle so much more with democracy.
[00:24:33] But they operate in the same space because they just see money rather than social impact and social responsibilities. I think social responsibility for soccer Berg is more like that he doesn't have to go to Congress or to the European Parliament and be held responsible for things. He doesn't really want to have social responsibilities on Facebook. So ten years ago everyone talked about Facebook being behind the trigger of the Arab spring of democracy using movements all over the world.
[00:24:59] Today however we seem to have a shift towards authoritarianism whether it's Putin trump the gun both know what's happening in Italy Poland Hungary. Do you see a connection between sort of the corruption at least in your mind of the digital dream and the crisis of democracy around the world.
[00:25:18] I think with Internet and globalization combined we live in a world where basically everything is becoming the same in each country. And the problem is that you're going to take the worst of each country and then use that instead of the best of each country for some reason. I think that the success of Trump basically bred the situation for both Senate and other people to become like the you know taking control of different countries. And this all comes down to the Internet being used the way it is.
[00:25:46] I wouldn't say the technology is responsible but I think that the two things that are connected and there and they're working together in parallel is a sort of a complex ball of yarn where they're sort of tied together is that fair.
[00:25:57] Definitely. And also like I think that people still have in their mind that it's something else that the Internet is some sort of liberating medium that gives you some sort of freedom.
[00:26:09] It's very much like an I can't believe you. You the co-founder of pirate bay one of the platforms that enable this is actually saying that. I mean that's a fairly radical shift in your thinking isn't it.
[00:26:20] I think it's the shift of the Internet rather than my world. I I I went to a really interesting festival in Copenhagen called it tech fest tech festival and we had a sit down with hundred and fifty people upon of days. These are all people that are entrepreneurs or activists or people interested in social justice people interested in technologies and how technology can change the world. And basically we were sitting in this room. People from big corporations big media industries and everyone agreed that the Internet got kind of out of hand. So I'm definitely not alone in this kind of view of the thing. But I think our own naivete is the reason for all of this because we didn't regulate. We didn't decide the rules.
[00:27:01] It's quite striking that the co-founder of pirate bay would be saying that the solution is regulation.
[00:27:06] I'm always been in favor of regulation if it's for the usage of the personal individual using the Internet or that not being different than being a member of society.
[00:27:17] This is such a complicated problem.
[00:27:20] Putting the horse before the cart what comes first. Fixing the Internet or fixing democracy. What should our priority be should we be more worried about this corruption of the Internet or more worried about the corruption of democracy. Or are they so kind of bound up with one another that to fix one. Will inevitably mean fixing the other. I think either way fix it and it's hard work or we wait until it crash. It will have to crash at some point crash democracy or the Internet. What's the difference. Why hasn't it crashed. Some people would argue with Trump on Brexit.
[00:27:51] No. No it hasn't crashed. It can be much worse. That's like the lessons we should take from.
[00:27:55] How could it crash. Give me some really nightmarish scenarios.
[00:27:58] Look at the climate crisis. We have people like Trump with so much power both scenario with so much power fucking up the world even more faster. So definitely that's a troubling situation willfully almost as if. Oh yes they want to frack the world and they want to turn it just cut out everything from the Amazon. This is a business model it's good for them it's good for their wallets and they don't really care about the implications for the next generation and so on. This is directly problem because of what we did with fucking democracy so much up with the Internet and the globalization. I say as you do as well I wouldn't blame the Internet for all of this of course it's because we use the Internet. The way we do. It's the problem of the people using the Internet and the problem of people in society. But I think we have to look at Internet as and much more integral part of society than we're doing today. We wouldn't regulate phone calls. The same way we do with internet. We wouldn't monitor every single phone call because phones could be used for. Terrorists to plan an attack. We wouldn't do it as easily as we do with internet. Where you get so much more information about everything. We just have this grand idea that if you just monitor people if you just collect information all of these things you violate all basic privacy of people. Then you can probably catch some terrorists. If you look at how you deal with other things in society. Postal. Mail or. Phone calls. We have a totally different view. And it's because we still think in the back of our minds that. Internet is some sort of medium for selling goods on eBay or just getting the new Netflix movies or something. We look very much down on what it has become and we don't really put enough importance to it. Which is also why I think we don't regulate it the way we do. We regulate. Parts of things on top of things. So more regulation as the Europeans are doing anti-trust regulation around data privacy regulation.
[00:29:46] On taxes regulation on the accountability of these platforms is that the kind of regulation you're discussing either that's which is the sane way of doing it or we have a revolution which I don't see is happening.
[00:29:58] I would prefer revenue because it would be much water. Yes. We should take the Internet. Ownership back like we should redistribute the resources. Why does Denmark have more IP addresses than you know all of Africa. We mimicked all of the shit in real life society on top of the Internet taking the Internet back.
[00:30:17] I mean people like Tim Berners Lee are now trying to do that. It's not just a pipe dream.
[00:30:21] Some of the pioneers of the original architecture of the Internet are dedicated to that and I would say you're necessarily a pioneer of the architecture but certainly an influential figure.
[00:30:31] Do you think more and more people are trying to do this.
[00:30:34] I think people understand it better and go just back to the Copenhagen thing like one hundred and fifty people that met up in that room.
[00:30:39] Influential People. Everyone was on the same page. Who else was there. Give me some examples of influential people. I'm not sure I should have to say it themselves. They signed a letter. It's the Copenhagen letter. OK you can read it. It's really nice.
[00:30:52] It just formulated letter of things we should think about. Maybe you can put link in your podcast to this letter and let it speak for you. What I wanted to say is also like. You say like Tim Berners Lee and other people are talking about taking the Internet back. When I was talking about these things before I was looked at as kind of a rebel for doing this. But I think people started to realize that the views I had and the scares we had. 15 years ago about who would control the internet who creates algorithms. Who decides what you know like Google with their page rank. There is a democratic deficit. If you don't have transparency into these questions like. Why did Facebook decide to filter out this and this news thing. We need to regulate them. So that we know what they're doing we need transparency in these areas.
[00:31:36] And could the technology of file sharing networks like Pirate Bay. Could that be a solution to some of this for example filtering out fake news.
[00:31:43] Yes and no. I think that we shouldn't put too much hope into technologies fixing the problems of technologies. I think that's a pipe dream even block chain block chain is just like the worst of it because that's yes. Yeah I think that's like the ultra libertarian dream of Bitcoin. I think it's just like besides the CO2 emissions from that industry which is just insane. It's also like a pyramid scheme from the people had bitcoins in the beginning and the people hoping to become the next guys who have a lot of bitcoins. It doesn't bring any value. The only thing that bitcoin prices surging has done is that people are activists that want to use bitcoin and other things there can't really afford doing it because you know the prices fluctuate up and down. So the idea of using this. Distributed decentralized crypto currency is for activists which was kind of the sales point at the beginning. Because of the capitalism on top of that kind of fucked up that industry. We're lucky that activism is possibilities. It's like fixing the system from within the system with the systems regulations is really. Really hard to do and I don't think a lot of people would think that that's a sane idea to do so like. Maybe we're not going to have a revolution but if we don't think about what the potential is we could do with the revolutions then we don't really know what we want to reshape society.
[00:32:52] So Peter you probably describe yourself as a Nordic. We're talking here in Oslo.
[00:32:57] You spent part of your life in Sweden part of your life in Finland. You obviously spent a lot of time in Denmark as well.
[00:33:04] Khan the Nordics lead on this.
[00:33:06] You talked about you know this Copenhagen movement where people are trying to rebuild. Can't we take the models from Finland or Sweden or Norway.
[00:33:14] In political terms and get this to reform not only society but also the Internet. Hillary Clinton. In a famous debate with Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election when Bernie started talking about Denmark said well we can't all be Denmark. Can we all be Denmark.
[00:33:32] Definitely. And actually Denmark is a good example because they're having. A kind of the Danish government now is really interested in becoming like an ethical data haven. They want to do more. Ethical tech that's like a business model for them and even though I'm not super into business models in general. I think it a much better business model than. Basically everything else right now which is unethical business models. And they've realized that this is a potential barrier. The problem with politics compared to technology is that technology is moving more and more rapidly. That's kind of the idea of technology. So when we finally have a guy in a few years that is super interesting as a technologist speaking. Politics will be and needs to be slow although to actually kind of grasp the situation just as we have a slow food movement and we need to slow politics movement. Now we have a slow politics movements. And that's problematic as well because you can't over regulate. You can't be too fast with politics because you always lose something if you don't think things true because it's not for just two days for very much into the future is about right. Technology you can create for today and if it doesn't work you just like do something else. Can't do that with politics. There's too much at stake. And that's a problem. So I think that technology and politics. Aren't really always super compatible in that way and that we need to figure out. How to find kind of like the missing link in between.
[00:34:50] What are we gonna get a book out of you Peter and all this on your life and on your views on capitalism on the digital revolution on Pirate Bay on Facebook.
[00:34:58] So I wrote five thousand pages so far and it's way too much I have to cut it out. And you began in prison. No way before in prison I wrote a sitcom. And did they ever get published. No. I'm gonna after I'm done with the current TV series I'm doing. That's the next project.
[00:35:12] And all this writing is it changed your opinion of the copyright industry when you have a best seller. Are you going to put it all on Pirate Bay.
[00:35:18] I hope someone else is going to put on the Pirate Bay so I can sue them because I know everything about it and that's great PR.