Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 23 - Episode #5.23 - full transcript

After commenting the recent allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, John Oliver looks at the troubling impact Facebook is making internationally, such as on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

A quick recap. We begin with Trump,
a man whose face will someday be

on the new Confederate States
of America five-dollar bill.

A chaotic week for the president,
including this ludicrous way to refer

to the damage
from Hurricane Florence.

This is a tough hurricane.

One of the wettest we've ever seen
from the standpoint of water.

I know it's a high bar, but that
statement is one of the dumbest things

I've ever heard from
the standpoint of words.

Clearly, the biggest news this week

involved Trump's Supreme Court
nominee Brett Kavanaugh,

a man who looks and I can't
put my finger on why,

like he walks around wearing
a mask of his own face.

I don't know why he's doing that,
I know he definitely is.

Kavanaugh's confirmation
seemed like a sure thing,

but then Christine Blasey Ford
alleged that,

in high school,
Kavanaugh pinned her down,

groped her, attempted to pull off
her bathing suit and the clothing,

and put his hand over her mouth
when she tried to scream.

I know that that is graphic,

but the details of these terrible
allegations are important.

They cast a chilling light on comments
he made about his time in high school.

What happens at Georgetown Prep
stays at Georgetown Prep.

A good thing
for all of us.

Now, for the record, the motto
"what happens here stays here"

makes anything sound awful
and creepy by default.

If you saw that slogan
at your dentist's office,

there's no way you would
let him give you anesthesia.

Kavanaugh, who has what I can
describe as a "resting lacrosse face",

denies these allegations.

His defenders
pushed back hard,

putting out a letter vouching
for him, signed by 65 women

who knew him
during high school.

Which doesn't really prove anything.

There's no person on earth who
hasn't not assaulted 65 women.

Even people who have assaulted
65 women

have also not assaulted
at least as many.

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro,
like many others,

questioned the timing
of the accusation,

suggesting it was a political
tactic by Dianne Feinstein.

And Dianne, why would you wait
to even send it to the FBI ?

Is it because nothing in you
and your pack of demon rats,

that's what I said, demon rats,
aka "Democrats" bag of tricks,

was working against Kavanaugh ?

Yep, you got her, Jeanine.
You got her.

What does a demon rat's bag
of tricks have to do with this ?

The most Dianne Feinstein could do
with that would be to levitate cheese.

And that's a skill,
but how does it apply here ?

While Pirro said that nonsense phrase
like it was the first time,

she's been trying to make it
a thing for months.

Here she is back in June.

They're not real Democrats,
they're demon rats.

That's what I said,
demon rats.

Jeanine. Stop trying
to make demon rats happen.

The most disturbing argument
in the Kavanaugh commentary

was the suggestion that,
even if he is lying,

this happened too long
ago to be relevant.

Listen this group of Florida women
active in Republican politics.

You can't judge the character of a man
based on what he did at 17.

But in the grand scheme of things,
there was no intercourse,

there was maybe a touch.

36 years later ?
She's still stuck on that ?

We're talking about a 17-year-old
boy with testosterone running high.

What boy hasn't done
this in high school ?

What the fuck
are you talking about ?

That is a terrible thing
for any high school girl to hear

and perhaps an even worse thing
for a high school boy to hear.

She's acting like assault is a natural
consequence of puberty.

Don't worry if your voice cracks,
you grow hair in weird places

and you start sexually
attacking people.

It's all perfectly normal.

Despite Kavanaugh's
protestations of innocence,

neither he, nor Trump,
nor Republicans

have called for FBI
to look into Ford's claims,

something she said
she would welcome.

Allies of Kavanaugh have been spinning
alternative theories,

none worse than what his friend
Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer,

posted on Thursday night.

Whelan tweeted: "a horrific incident
similar to the one the accuser alleges"

"may well have occurred,
but if so, she's got the wrong guy."

"Kavanaugh wasn't present, as this
and more will confirm."

That kicked off a 26-tweet thread
in which Whelan suggested

Ford had mistaken Kavanaugh
for a classmate of his,

who he then named, on the basis
of info from Google Maps

and a floor plan from Zillow.

He baselessly accused a private
citizen of a sex crime.

Which is terrible, and using Zillow
is just a bizarre way to do it.

It would be like sending
a death threat using Etsy.

I don't really know what's
more surprising

that someone wants me to die
or how gorgeous the needlework is.

What a hand !

Trump was uncharacteristically
restrained on Ford's allegations,

although a source close
to him said on Thursday:

"you have no idea how hard it was
to keep Trump from attacking Ford."

I've seen a raccoon gnaw
through a garbage lid,

so I have some idea how hard it is
to prevent an animal

from indulging in its
rankest beastly impulses.

Trump couldn't hold in
for long how he felt.

He tweeted: "If the attack on Dr. Ford
was as bad as she says,"

"charges would have been
immediately filed"

"with local Law Enforcement Authorities
by either her or her loving parents."

The president cast doubt on someone
who says she was sexually assaulted,

while also implying
that her parents don't love her.

That's one of the most
shit-headed things I've seen,

from the standpoint
of shit-headedness.

There are many reasons why victims
don't file charges with the police,

including fear, humiliation and
a suspicion that no one will believe.

This is a conversation
we've been having for decades

and some people still seem
to be struggling to understand this.

It's not even like this is
the first time an accuser

has been attacked during
a Supreme Court confirmation.

Hill had her character assassinated
during the Thomas hearings.

We spoke to her on our show
back in July,

and there's part of that interview
we didn't end up airing

that I'll show you now,
it seems relevant.

Do you think the tone of your
hearing would be different today ?

I'm not even sure we would
have the hearing today.

Really ?

I think that a nominee
would not make it.

I think that now we're gonna be
vetting people to see

if some
of these issues are in their past.

I'm not sure we would
even get to a hearing.

At least we've gotten that far.
If there were a hearing,

I think absolutely
the tone would be different.

I really hope
that she is right.

Ford is now set to testify
on Thursday.

From what we've seen so far,

in terms of victim-blaming
and outright character assassination,

it could well be a sad litmus test
for where we are as a society.

It is not too late right now.
We can still give her claims

the full and serious
attention they deserve.

This is a lifetime appointment,
the stakes could not be higher.

As Brett Kavanaugh
would put it:

what gets on the Supreme Court,
stays on the Supreme Court.

That could be a very bad thing
for all of us. And now this.

A brief message from Zillow.

Hi, we're Zillow,
the real estate website.

After the news this week,

we just wanted to clear up
what our company is really about.

Zillow is actually not meant
to be used

to publicly accuse random strangers
of sexual assault, it's really not.

No, Zillow is meant to be used
for one thing and one thing only:

looking up your friends' homes
to see how much they spent,

so you can either laugh
at how much they overpaid

or be jealous of their wealth.

Again, accusing strangers of sexual
assault: not Zillow's thing !

Stalking and judging the financial
status of everyone you know ?

Yes. That is what we're about.

Also for burglars casing houses
they plan to rob

and for very occasional masturbating.

But that is it.

Zillow ! Yes, it's for judging people
but not like that !

Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns Facebook:

the worst place to wish happy birthday
to a friend other than a funeral.

Facebook has been in the news,
over concerns from privacy,

to fake news, to Russian trolls.

We're gonna go in a different direction
and focus on its behavior overseas.

Facebook has been expanding
aggressively abroad,

more than half its revenue
comes from outside the U.S..

80 percent of its users live in foreign
countries, posting things like this.

That's an international version
of the "In My Feelings" challenge,

that took Facebook
and Instagram by storm

after being popularized
by TheShiggyShow.

Learn more about
all of that in my new book:

"I Don't Know What These Words Mean,
My Staff Assures Me It Makes Sense."

Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg,
pushed his utopian idea

that all connections
are good connections,

with ads showing him
bringing the internet to the world

and Facebook employees
saying things like this.

By connecting the world, people
realize that there are other people

who have different lives than them
and then amazing things happen.

You want to do something big

and you have access
to 1,2 billion people.

What can you do is just
limited by your imagination.

Connecting billions
of people sounds great,

but when it comes to the internet:

a certain number of
those people are then going to say:

WHO DID 9/11",

and you really have to think
that through.

Thinking things through has
never been Facebook's strong point.

Their early motto was:
"move fast and break things",

a sentiment Zuckerberg
explained this way.

We want to build our culture
and our infrastructure

so that we try to move one or two
clicks faster than other companies

and we go too fast
and we mess up stuff

and then we have to fix it
and that's cool.

Is that cool ?
Is that cool, at all Mark ?

That seems like maybe the most
reckless corporate motto

since the Hindenburg company's

"fly fast and smoke cigarettes
in a big bag of hydrogen !"

How did you not foresee the problems
heading your way ?

And make no mistake:
Facebook has broken things overseas.

Over the summer,
there was an earthquake in Indonesia

and while Facebook
connected people there,

it wasn't necessarily
in the way the situation demanded,

as this news report shows.

Facebook sends the balloon
and the confetti animations

to users wishing each other well.

The Indonesian word for
congratulations "selamat"

can also mean "unhurt"
or to "survive"

so when Facebook users posted
messages saying:

"I hope people will survive", Facebook
gave them celebratory animations.

That's not ideal, is it ?

There is a time and a place
for balloons

and it's very rarely
after the word "survive".

Let me prove that to you.
I have some terrible news.

We may have to eat each other
to survive.

No, not now !
Now's the worst time for that !

If embarrassing mistranslations
were the only problems,

that would be one thing, but
the company made mistakes overseas

and that is what
tonight's story is about.

In Philippines and Cambodia,

it has been accused
of empowering authoritarians.

In Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia,
viral rumors and hateful comments

have been linked
to outbreaks of violence.

For the worst distillation of
what Facebook can do to a country,

look at Myanmar, the country
you think so little about,

you didn't realize
that's not Myanmar,

that's Mikhail Gorbachev's

This is Myanmar.

Myanmar, also known as Burma,
was, for decades,

cut off from the world
under military dictatorships.

As it's transitioned
to a quasi-civilian government,

internet use there, especially
of Facebook, has exploded.

In 2013, just over one percent
of citizens had internet access,

but now 18 million people
are on Facebook,

thanks in part to it coming
pre-installed on mobile phones

and heavy promotion
by service providers,

who didn't charge Facebook usage
against data plans.

We can use Facebook for free.

Except for looking at photos
and watching videos.

We'll use Facebook for free and ask
the things we want to know.

I'll use MPT and post
everything to Facebook, it's free !

Let's use Facebook for free
with MPT.

Just quick question:
is Facebook free ?

That commercial
didn't quite make it clear.

With Facebook so easy to access,
it basically became the internet,

people in Myanmar use "internet"
and "Facebook" interchangeably.

Some people there
use Facebook for fun,

that guy you saw
earlier lives in Myanmar,

while other find it to be a waste
of time, like this irritated teacher.

Everybody is busy on their
smart phone, playing games.

I hate.
I don't like this. It's terrible.

Looks like Facebook is a toilet.

I get that he's annoyed.

But calling Facebook a toilet
is a little unfair to toilets.

They make shit go away,
whereas Facebook retains shit,

disseminates shit
to your acquaintances

and reminds you of shit
from seven years ago,

while allowing corporations
to put their shit in front of you.

There is a purity, an integrity,
to toilets that Facebook lacks.

Facebook's issues in Myanmar go
beyond distracted teenagers.

If you have glanced at the "Not Trump"
section of the newspaper at all,

you are probably aware that
Myanmar is a majority-Buddhist country

with a long history of religious
and ethnic tensions,

particularly with regard
to the Rohingya,

a mostly-Muslim group
in the western part of Myanmar.

In 2017, the military executed
a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing.

About 725 000 Rohingya,
about three-quarters of the population,

fled to Bangladesh,
to escape government troops.

One estimate puts the death toll
at around 10 000 people.

Facebook didn't cause that.
I feel comfortable saying it:

Mark Zuckerberg, not guilty
of genocide in Myanmar.

As of this taping.

But, and it is a big "but",
by all accounts,

Facebook absolutely did inflame
pre-existing tensions there.

A report on Myanmar prepared
by independent UN investigators,

said: "Facebook was a useful instrument
for those seeking to spread hate."

It is weird to hear something
that started out as frivolous

be described like that.

It's like if five years from now,
UN investigators called bubble tea

"an aggressive threat
to human rights."

I mean, honestly, I never
really liked it, but Jesus Christ !

Hate speech against Muslims,
and especially the Rohingya,

flourished on Facebook, posted
by military leaders and politicians,

as well as prominent Buddhist
monks like Ashin Wirathu.

Do Muslims have a place
here in Burma ?

We can't repeat his response,
it's R-rated.

But essentially he said, Muslims
were defecating on Burma,

threatening its very existence...

You don't like them very much !

I don't accept them.

Why ?

They're deceiving the world, they
want to take over the whole country.

That monk is so hateful, he has been
called the "Burmese bin Laden".

A Buddhist monk is known
as the Burmese bin Laden.

Which is as jarring as if you found out
there's a Care Bear known as

"the one who fucks".

I always thought Wish Bear would be
the one who fucks.

I mean, look at him.
That bear fucks.

Wirathu had hundreds of
thousands of followers on Facebook

and he used his pages
to wreak havoc,

including spreading false accusations
that a Muslim business owner

raped a Buddhist employee,
a post that helped instigate riots

in the city of Mandalay in 2014,

in which two people were killed
and 20 others injured.

Despite repeated warnings
about Wirathu,

Facebook didn't get around to banning
him until earlier this year.

That is one example of the extent

to which Facebook became
an echo chamber of Islamophobia.

One local official told he was
"proud to oversee a Muslimfree village",

even though he admitted he had
never even met a Muslim before,

adding: "I thank Facebook, it is giving
me the true information in Myanmar."

Here is what happened when ABC
talked to people in the streets there.

Most local people here
get their news via Facebook.

Judging by what
people have told us,

they are not getting
the whole picture.

What do you think
about the Rohingya people ?

I think they are terrorists.
They are making problems everywhere.

I could gather information
from Facebook.

What does Facebook
say about them ?

They want to occupy our land
and our people.

That is very dangerous,
no one should be judged

by the worst things people say
about them on Facebook.

If I were judged by that,
you'd think I was a "cuck twit",

"a prime example of why abortion
should be more readily available"

and that "I look like a distressed bird
trying to get your attention."

Is any of that, apart from that
last one, really fair ?

I would say no !
I would argue no !

How did so much hate speech and
violent content stay up for so long ?

It's not like Facebook doesn't
have rules, they have a lot of them.

Their own internal materials
get into details like

which sort of anuses photoshopped
onto faces they're willing to allow.

They even cite graphic examples
such as this image

of Trump
with an anus for a mouth.

That is allowed,
because he is a public figure.

Taylor Swift with anuses for eyes ?
Also allowed for the same reason.

This image of Kim Jong Un
with an anus for a mouth is not okay,

because I quote: "it also displays a
sex toy inserted into the anus."

That still leaves grey areas.
What if I display a meatball sub

being inserted
into that same mouthanus ?

Is a meatball sub a sex toy ?

Could you not argue that meatballs
are the anal beads of Italy ?

Olive Garden ? That slogan
is free for you to use !

You can have it, it's yours.

You can absolutely quibble with
where Facebook draws its lines

and the broader discussion of private
companies policing speech

is an important one,
but Facebook does have standards

that are enforced
in a number of ways.

They have artificial intelligence
that detects objectionable content.

They also rely on users,
like you and me,

to flag objectionable content, which is
reviewed by human moderators.

It's something most social media
companies do, a thankless job,

as you see from this session run by
a content moderation company in India.

Here the person is not naked
but you can see the erection,

the penis is visible.

Now this lady.
Now here, it's very much obvious

that intensely she
is focusing on butt part,

the camera is focusing
on butt part.

It will fall under nudity.

It's not proper nudity
but it will fall under nudity.

I'm sorry but
I'm absolutely calling it:

that guy is definitely
focusing on the butt part.

As Facebook themselves will tell
you: policing nudity is the easy part.

It's harder is defining and spotting
misinformation and hate speech

and that is what Myanmar
has been drowning in.

Facebook's system failed them
at every stage:

their A.I. didn't work,
Facebook's technology

isn't compatible
with Myanmar's language fonts.

Not great, but fine.

They needed Burmese people
to flag content for them.

To do that, it might've helped if things
like their community standards

and reporting systems
had been in Burmese.

Which they weren't,
until late 2015,

which isn't great, in a country
where almost no one speaks English.

If Facebook's interface here
was in Burmese.

You would have no way of knowing
which button did what.

That's not even
Facebook's interface,

that's a list of dinosaurs, ranked
from most to least fuckable.

Stegosaurus is way too far
down on that list.

Stegosaurus is basically
the Wish Bear of dinosaurs.

Seriously, that bear can get it.

Wait, it gets worse: even content
that did get flagged in Myanmar,

often didn't get taken down.

One reason for that may be that
Facebook had shockingly-few

content reviewers.

How many ? I'll just let
this Reuters reporter tell you.

Back in 2014 they had one person,
they hired a second in early 2015,

they outsourced an operation,
but they had had no Burmese speakers

until 2015 when they hired two.

It's true: first they had one.
Then they doubled it to two.

And, through outsourcing, added
two more. So, four.

I don't know what the right number
of Burmese speakers for Facebook is,

but it probably shouldn't be
possible for the sum total

to be decimated
in a tandem bike accident.

It's not like Facebook can plead
ignorance or surprise.

Civil society groups and individuals
tried to warn them.

As far back as 2013,
they faced trouble in Myanmar.

Facebook itself now admits
that they moved too slowly,

though Zuckerberg insists
they're now making progress.

They've hired 60 Burmese speakers

and he told Congress
they're looking for more.

We're hiring dozens of more Burmese
language content reviewers.

Hate speech is language specific,
it's hard to do it without people

who speak the local language and
we need to ramp up our effort there.

"Hate speech
is language specific."

It's weird to hear a guy
who's been universally lauded

as a genius and a visionary say
something that's completely obvious,

as if it's a brand
new idea to him.

It's as if Steve Jobs called everyone
for his brand new discovery:

Mrs. Doubtfire was just the dad
in a costume.

Yeah, we know, Steve.
Did you not get that ?

I thought you were smart !
I don't trust my iPhone now.

Many argue that Zuckerberg
still hasn't done nearly enough.

Hate speech is still widespread
on Facebook in Myanmar.

Last month, four months
after Zuckerberg promised to do better,

Reuters found more than a thousand
Burmese-language posts

attacking the Rohingya
that were still on Facebook.

You could say: "Reuters was
actively looking for those."

You know who else could do that ?
Maybe a company worth $500 billion.

Reuters doesn't have $500 billion.

Their journalist doesn't even seem
to have a decent webcam.

Get the man a decent webcam,
Reuters ! His work is important !

Despite its 60 whole
Burmese speakers,

Facebook is still
struggling with the language.

Earlier this year, their community
standards were badly mistranslated.

Instead of "we take our role in keeping
abuse off our service seriously",

they said: "we take our role seriously
by abusing our services."

Small things like that
really matter.

Even punctuation can change
the meaning of a sentence.

Bill Cosby once wrote a book that
I'm guessing was meant to be called

"Come On, People",

but they omitted the comma so it
read "Come On People".

Deep down, perhaps that's when
we should have known.

I am not saying that the challenges
Facebook is facing are not significant,

but for a company that moves
fast and break things,

they have sure moved slowly
in trying to fix them.

Until they do, everyone should be
treating anything on their site

with extreme skepticism and see
Facebook for what it actually is,

a fetid swamp of mistruths and
outright lies,

interspersed with the occasional
reminder of a dead pet.

That's it. That's what it is.

Instead of producing idyllic ads
about "connecting the world",

at the very least,
Facebook should be producing ads

that prepare countries for how
to deal with their product.

I would suggest something like this.

Hi, we're Facebook.
We're connecting the world.

We're coming to your country
whether you like it or not.

There's one thing about Facebook
you should probably know,

somewhere between 80 and 100
percent of what's on site is bullshit.

My Facebook page is full of lies
about how happy I am.

My Facebook page say I go to yoga,
I've been like three times.

My Facebook page says
I'm a 19-year-old girl.

All my photos are of me with
a baby, but I don't have a baby.

Fun ! We at Facebook believe
in giving everyone a voice,

without worrying too much about
what that voice then chooses to say.

How bad could it be ?

I don't believe
the Holocaust happened.

Can someone explain why what
Charlie Rose did was so wrong ?

I wouldn't post that, you can !

George Soros invented mosquitos.

Hillary Clinton created AIDS, yeah.
I'm sure about that.

There is only one Olsen twin, moving
back and forth very fast.

It's not our place
to tell you you're wrong.

We're about making connections.

- Can you connect me to my brother ?
- Sure.

- Can you connect me to Coca-Cola ?
- We can absolutely do that.

Someone just told me they want
to murder my family.

I'm not sure what you said
but it sounded great.

Facebook is a platform anyone
can use to do good, or bad.

It's riddled with bullshit.

We're never gonna be able
to control or contain it.

Before you use our site
for the first time,

there's something
you need to remember.

Facebook is full of shit.

Facebook is complete shit.

Facebook is good for nothing.

Facebook is a useless bastard.

Facebook is trash.


We are tired of Facebook. It's
a waste of our time. It's all shit !

Facebook is a toilet.

Facebook is like a toilet.

Facebook is a toilet, and God willing,
your country will survive it.

Shit, we've really
got to fix that.

Facebook: we're a toilet !

It's a fucking bullshit.

That's our show.
See you next week, goodnight !

John Oliver is a cuck.

I like sending photos to people
of my butt part.

John Oliver is a puppet for Scientolgy.
How can you not see it ?

Fuck Facebook.
It's a fucking toilet.

Merde. Bullshit.
Bullshit, flip the switch.