Joel Bakan is Suing Twitter
I interviewed Joel Bakan to learn about his movie "The New Corporation", and his lawsuit against Twitter.
Inequality, homelessness and the opioid epidemic all have ties to corporations. Some CEO’s make 202 times more than their workers. In 2019, the average compensation for the 100 top-paid CEOs in Canada was $10.8 million per year.1 Some reports indicate that the rise in homelessness is in part, due to the 2008 financial crisis caused by corporations. 2 Finally, pharmaceutical companies unethically pushed opioids, and harmed countless innocent families. 3
Corporations, are separate legal entities that have their own personhood. As Eddie Gardner point out in our discussion - they lack a soul. The driving force of corporations are to create a profit for their shareholders, and to act in their own best interest. The term "psychopath" describes someone who is unemotional, and morally depraved. In Joel Bakan’s first movie The Corporation, he argues they are, by definition, psychopaths.
Yet, others like law professor Camden Hutchison remind us that they also create immense wealth for societies. The internet, smartphones, electric cars are all examples of corporations providing us products we enjoy. There is no denying that Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and pharmaceutical companies interact with our lives, and often for the better. While they may be flawed, imperfect, and dangerous - so are human beings. Which argument is right? Or is there merit to both?
My suspicion is that both perspectives are important. That is why I wanted to speak with Joel Bakan. He is an author, filmmaker, musician, podcast host, and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. He recently released his latest film The New Corporation. A film about how the problems corporations create have gotten worse, and how they are claiming they are the solution. Mr. Bakan is one of the best people in the world to ask about the problems corporations are causing, and I was very eager to hear his thoughts.
Not only is Joel Bakan a filmmaker, he is also the man suing Twitter. Shortly after releasing his latest film, he tried to boost a tweet about the film. Twitter is a space where people talk about current events, news and politics - and the exact audience Mr. Bakan was looking for. Yet… they rejected his ad. Why? Well… he received a few different policies with no clear conclusive answer. What is a law professor to do? He sued.
Based on this, I had several questions. What is the legal basis for his lawsuit against Twitter? How does freedom of speech fit into the new social media platforms? Would Elon Musk buying Twitter fix the problem? Is his ad being rejected a part of some grand conspiracy to stop people from knowing the problems corporations are causing? What does he think of the federal governments proposed legislation?
I believe Joel sets a great example by choosing to sue Twitter. Whether he wins or not, he is putting pressure on the corporation to be transparent, fair and more cognizant of their actions. They may choose to voluntarily change some of their procedures in response to this lawsuit. As well, I think it is admirable that Mr. Bakan has chosen to share his journey through his own podcast - The Unfortunately Necessary Podcast. This makes the law more accessible to everyday people and reminds us that it is a tool to hold organizations like Twitter accountable.
My partner Rebekah and I cruised out to Vancouver, BC to speak with Mr. Bakan. We recorded the episode at my alma mater, Peter A. Allard School of Law in their beautiful lounge for faculty members. As always, I was a bit nervous. This time because he has a background as an interviewer as well. In fact, he has interviewed individuals like Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, which is another topic we discuss. I was curious as to how he approaches interviews.
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Personally, I believe it is really important we hear from voices like Mr. Bakan. Many people dislike corporations, but can’t fully articulate why. Joel Bakan has thought deeply about the roots of corporate structures, the psychology of corporations, and the effects they have on our society. I found him to be very thoughtful in his responses and very engaging. I also admire Mr. Bakan, because he has a lot of different interests. As I mentioned, he is an author, filmmaker, musician, professor, and podcast host. He reminds us that as humans we aren’t just our political opinion, we aren’t just our job, and most importantly we aren’t just one thing. We are dynamic human beings.
To watch his latest movie “The New Corporation” or to listen to his music, or podcast, you can visit his website. He put a lot of work into the documentary and we are lucky he did! The full interview with Mr. Bakan and I is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and all other podcast platforms.