On Tuesday at Fusion's Real Future Fair, Edward Snowden took the stage via Snowbot to discuss the future of the surveillance state under Trump, the political power of social networks, and how technology has changed what it means to be in exile.
He also discussed his controversial tweet from mid-October, where he wrote that there "may never be a safer election in which to vote for a third option," citing a New York Times poll.
As we now know, these polls were off-base by a fairly significant degree. Some have criticized Snowden for encouraging folks to vote third-party when they could have swung key states away from Donald Trump.
Snowden didn't directly apologize for his stance, telling Real Future Senior Editor Kashmir Hill that voting for someone you don't believe in is "fundamentally un-American."
"It's inappropriate to say people should vote for someone who doesn't represent their interests, because then we're getting into a politics that are against choice," Snowden said.
At the start of the program, Snowden recommended we look outside the traditional political structure for hope, saying that he doesn't have much faith in any president to affect significant change.
"You can't sit around when you see a problem, and hope for a hero to come by and make things better," Snowden said. "Technology works differently than law. Technology knows no jurisdiction." Snowden also said that because of technology he is still able to have a voice: "We are witnessing the end of exile as an effective tool for political repression." (He admits, however, that he hasn't been able to play with many augmented reality tools like Pokemon Go.)
There are inherent issues with political speech on technology platforms, of course, as companies like Facebook and Twitter set their own internal standards. Snowden warned about the dangers of corporations monopolizing technology platforms, and what that could mean for our political climate.
"They trample not just customers, but paradigms," he said.
Closing, Snowden said folks who want to personally to fight back against surveillance do more than just rely on encryption tools. He urges them to donate to organizations that are dedicated to ensuring the privacy of the population, like the ACLU, EFF, and Freedom Of The Press, where he is the chairman.
"They can't do this without your support," he said.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.