Whistleblower Edward Snowden on Tuesday warned that calls for corporate censorship of fake news could pose a threat to all free speech.
"There've been responses that I actually think are quite negative here," said Snowden, speaking in a livestreamed Periscope Q&A with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. In 2013, Snowden provided classified documents to several journalists that helped uncover a series of illegal programs used for the surveillance of American citizens and other individuals across the globe.
Asked about the quality of journalism in 2016, Snowden said that a lot of good journalism goes untalked about on services like Twitter while controversial, shocking fake news is easily shared across social media -- a problem many say negatively influenced the 2016 elections.
The reaction to this problem has included calls for the removal of or the censorship of online accounts that spout fake news, but during the chat, Snowden said that this kind of filtering would be a slippery slope that could prohibit the speech of others or be taken advantage of by government around the world.
"They always start with the most offensive type of ideas. We aren't talking about speech in general. We're not even talking about fake news in general," Snowden said. "We're talking about things like terrorism, right?"
As an example, Snowden described a shared database companies designed to spot terrorist accounts on the internet -- an idea which actually became a reality earlier this month. "That sounds like something we can all get behind because nobody wants to see ISIS recruiting on the internet," Snowden said. "But at the same time, there is no common definition of terrorism that is recognized around the world."
As a result, Snowden continued, this kind of tool can be used by authoritarian governments like Turkey's, which considers anyone who is critical of the government to be a terrorist, to limit the speech of citizens.
"We need to make sure that our best responses to lies, the problem of fake news, isn't solved by hoping for a referee, but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other," Snowden said. "We talk and we share and we point out what is fake. We point out what is good."
"The answer to bad speech is not censorship," Snowden said. "The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular."
Snowden also shared his thoughts on current affairs. He took multiple swipes at politicians who lack transparency and do not disclose vital information like their tax returns, a criticism that would apply to President-Elect Donald Trump.
At one point, Dorsey asked Snowden what individual Americans can do to help create a better America. "The first thing is to care," Snowden said.
"A lot of people have very tough lives. They work hard, they get home at night, they don't want to think about politics," Snowden said. "But we should consider that that's something that disempowers us."
Snowden said that individuals who do not partake in the political process are giving up on the idea that tomorrow could be better for them. "It's not enough to believe in something. It's not enough to visualize that better world. You have to stand up for it. You have to risk something. You have to dare," he said.
Snowden said that individuals need to partake either by taking action or volunteering with groups they support. At the very least, Snowden said, people must be willing to donate to the groups who will fight on their behalf.
"Invest some part of yourself -- whether it's your money, whether it's your time, whether it's making phone calls -- in organizations that actually will fight to make that better, more fair, more free world," said Snowden, suggesting groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Finally, Snowden also shared his thoughts on how Twitter could improve as a service. Snowden said he hopes to see the social media company continue to soften the restrictions of its infamous 140-character limit ("That's painful. Honestly, that's terrible," Snowden said). He also advocated on behalf of adding a tweet-editing tool, giving users some sort of ability to adjust their tweets after they are sent out without completely switching up the spirit of what they originally said.
"Surely there's got to be a way to tag [a tweet] as edited. If you click on the edit tag you can see the previous versions of a tweet," Snowden said. "Just to correct things where people put a tweet out, it gets shared and then they realize, 'Oh, I made a typo on it.'"