Platform Accountability

5 Burning Questions for Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox

It’s been a minute since we last heard from Chris Cox, the man who at one time was, as WIRED put it, “effectively in charge of product for four of the six largest social media platforms in the world.”

As Facebook’s longtime chief product officer, Cox has effectively been Mark Zuckerberg’s “chief of staff for executing product strategy” since at least 2014. Zuckerberg might be the “face” of Facebook, but Cox is, per the company’s own employees, its “heart and soul.” Under his steady hand, the platform grew into a global behemoth with more than two billion users and a market value of more than $500 billion. He played a major role in the creation of News Feed and, somewhere along the way, was handed the reins of WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram as well.

It is not an exaggeration to say that, by 2019, Cox was the most powerful chief product officer (CPO) in the world. In an era where the line between digital life and real life is almost nonexistent, that made him one of the most powerful people in the world, full stop.

But then something went awry. Zuckerberg announced a shift toward end-to-end encryption and integrated the four apps in Cox’s portfolio under one blanket. Shortly thereafter, in April 2019, Cox left the company. He was reticent to share the reason for his departure, but we know that Cox was an advocate for limiting toxicity and preserving the safety and well-being of Facebook users. So, it is not difficult to imagine at least one reason for why he left: increased encryption, while enhancing privacy, makes it more arduous than ever for Facebook to curb hate speech, human trafficking, conspiracy theorizing, terrorist plotting, and all the other terrible behaviors that have turned it into a democracy-threatening cesspool.

But then, barely a year after his resignation, Cox returned to his CPO job, citing an urge to “roll up my sleeves and dig in to help” in the face of a “public health crisis, an economic crisis, and now a reckoning of racial injustice.” It was a bafflingly quick turnaround. If anything, Facebook had become a far more fraught place to work during Cox’s absence, shouldering more and more of the blame for societal maladies ranging from rampant misinformation, to tech addiction, to election tampering. Antitrust investigations – both at home and abroad – swirled around the company like a tornado, and Facebook’s own employees were in a state of perpetual discontent.

All of these monumental challenges seemed only to motivate Cox even more. “In the past month the world has grown more chaotic and unstable, which has only given me more resolve to help out,” he wrote. Since then, other than an update here and there on his Facebook page, he has not been very visible – which is a shame. As the chief product officer of the world’s biggest social media platform, Cox remains one of the world’s most influential technology executives. We would like to hear more from him. Per his own staff, Cox is “everything Mark wished he could be”, and is renowned for his ability to compellingly explain what the company is up to, for better or for worse.

We can’t seem to get serious answers from Zuck. By contrast, taken at his word, Chris Cox seems to instinctively want to help make things better. So here are five questions we’d like to ask Chris Cox:

1) The election has come and gone and the actual balloting went pretty smoothly, at least relative to the dystopia of chaos and violence that many feared. But with tight results and delayed counting in several states, the election misinformation machine began firing on all cylinders. Facebook’s response to it was limited to adding a notification to posts that included “premature claims” of victory by candidates, and to putting limits on political advertising. Nevertheless, Facebook was rife with misleading and threatening posts and misinformation in the aftermath of Election Day.

Do you, Chris Cox, really feel your company’s response to misinformation on and after the election was sufficient when the stakes were so high for our country? Do you really feel you did enough when a key pillar of our democracy – a free and fair election – was under unprecedented attack?

2) The much-touted Facebook Oversight Board has finally begun reviewing high-impact content moderation claims, including some recent cases involving nudity, incitement of violence, and hate speech. The board writes that once it has ruled on these items, “Facebook will be required to implement our decisions”.

Chris Cox, what will that implementation look like? One of the claims, for example, is over the removal of a video and comments criticizing France’s refusal to authorize certain controversial drugs for the treatment of COVID-19. Let’s say the Board agrees this post should, in fact, be removed – as Facebook has already done based on violation of its Violence and Incitement policy. What happens next? Other than keeping the post down, how do you foresee “implementing” the Board’s decision in future product developments? As the Board makes specific decisions on complaints (some of which may already be moot because they are no longer burning issues), how will Facebook turn the lessons of these cases into actionable, positive, systemic changes at Facebook?

3) You left Facebook following Zuckerberg’s announced plan to focus on an “encrypted, interoperable, messaging network.” You never explained why (so far as we are aware), but some have speculated it is because your work to prevent hate speech, conspiracy theories, human trafficking, and other harms on the platform would be jeopardized by an infrastructure that could make Facebook’s most toxic content invisible – even to Facebook. In any case, you are back in the saddle again, but we haven’t heard how you are squaring your concerns about encryption with your efforts to prevent harmful speech.

So, what has changed? Have you made your peace with encryption? How will it affect your efforts against harms on Facebook’s platforms?

4) In 2008, you served, for a short time, as Facebook’s director of human resources. You later said of the experience that it taught you that “we don’t need innovation in the field of HR and recruiting, we just need competent managers.” Since then, in the wake of scandal after scandal, employee dissent has become commonplace at Facebook.

If you were leading HR today, how would you handle these concerns? What would you do to fix a company culture that isn’t just rankling current Facebook workers but jeopardizing its incoming talent pipeline?

5) And lastly, Chris, a question near and dear to our hearts. Facebook, and your Big Tech peers, report that you have committed substantial resources to meet the biggest headline challenges you face about content moderation. No doubt about it, it is difficult to make fast and fair decisions about highly subjective material without, as Zuckerberg often laments, becoming “arbiters of truth.” Heck, you even spent $130 million establishing the aforementioned independent oversight board to try to [nothing less than]answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online.

Our question is this: if you can put this much time and effort and spending into the difficult content moderations issues, why can’t you commit more resources to better clean up the easy stuff – i.e., reducing the incidents of piracy on your platform? You are willing to deauthorize groups that engage in bad behavior – why not extend that to the tons of “free movie” groups on your platform where the members aren’t just linking to external piracy sites but actively hosting the full uploaded films on your platform. That kind of behavior is awfully obvious and doesn’t require wrestling with “truth.” Piracy is a crime and it is costing the U.S. economy at least $29.2 billion every year. Why is it still on your platform?

This article was first published on CreativeFuture

Platform Accountability

Big Tech’s Culture of Carelessness

Coincidental with the Big Tech CEOs getting chewed out by Democrats and Republicans alike late last year in one of several Section 230 hearings, Yaël Eisenstat – ex-CIA officer, past White House Advisor, and Facebook’s former head of global elections integrity operations – rendered a diagnosis of what’s gone wrong.

“[A]t the heart of the problems with big tech,” she wrote in an article for The Information, “is an issue unlikely to be addressed: company culture.”

Eisenstat’s prognosis was not good. “The very culture that propelled these companies to unprecedented success is at odds with the way they would need to operate if they truly want to fix some of the negative societal impacts fueling the ‘techlash,’” she continued.

Or, to put it bluntly: prioritizing growth, speed, competitive advantage, and profits above all else is in their DNA, no matter the societal costs.

In recent weeks, we have learned all too well what those societal costs can be, as years of divisiveness and toxic rhetoric online spilled over into real life, and real mayhem in America.

Political views aside, when speech incites violence, whether online or IRL, it is not acceptable. Criminality is not protected under the First Amendment and the internet platforms have simply not done enough to curb the user behavior that incites it.

Of course, the platforms would beg to differ.

Companies like Facebook and Google knew from their inception that, with modest exceptions, they would not be held accountable for the user-generated content they distributed. Although not Congress’ intention, two “safe harbors” — specifically those found in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) – have been interpreted by courts in a manner that effectively immunizes platforms from liability for enabling illegal activity by their users.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with legal safe harbors. Properly constructed, they can promote growth in socially beneficial sectors by providing businesses certainty that they will not be subject to unreasonable litigation risks – so long as they take certain statutorily defined measures to prevent harm.

But that’s where things have broken down. The courts have ruled that Sections 512 and 230 shield platforms whether they take measures to prevent harm or not.

When it comes to the distribution of pirated content, for example, the courts say that all the platforms need do is take down the infringing material once they are notified by the copyright holder – after the harm has already occurred. And if the infringing material is reposted repeatedly – which is incredibly easy to do – they don’t need to take it down until the copyright holder notifies them again.

And when it comes to other violations of law by their users (such as, say, selling counterfeit products or disseminating malware), the platforms do not need to do a thing as long as the violations are not felonies. They can allow the illegal behavior to continue and even profit from the advertising revenues, subscription fees, and the collection of valuable data generated by the illegal activity.

As a result, platforms are incentivized to get as much user-generated content up as fast as possible – and to avoid concerning themselves much, if at all, with what that content is or where it comes from.

Mitigating potential harm from the content they carry only slows them down, costs them money, and deprives them of potential revenue. Unlike every other business, there is almost no legal risk to Facebook, Google, and other internet companies for ignoring criminal behavior on their services – so why on earth would they bother?

The platform companies respond little to conscience or societal pressure. It is only meaningful legal risk that gets their attention, and incentivizes them to consider the harmful social side effects of their business models.

Thankfully, Congress has, at long last, decided that they have had enough of this attitude on the part of the platforms. They seem intent on fixing the interpretations of Sections 512 and 230 that have allowed the digital platforms to grow unfettered while they are dividing us, misinforming us, surveilling us, and stealing from us.

While Section 230 reform will snag the lion’s share of the headlines following the Capitol Building riot, major changes to the DMCA will also be under review in 2021.

Additionally, with the recent passage of two powerful new copyright provisions, creatives will have improved opportunities to protect their work in the internet era. The Protecting Legal Streaming Act (PLSA) makes the massively harmful, large-scale illegal streaming of copyrighted material subject to felony prosecution for the first time. And the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act establishes a small claims tribunal for creative individuals and small businesses to protect themselves from infringement outside of federal court.

While creatives are grateful for these important legislative changes, there is still a long way to go to make internet companies more accountable for how their platforms are used. Until Congress requires the platforms to change their culture of carelessness from the ground up, abuses will only grow. For now, it is Americans who are suffering whilst these large tech platforms flourish.

This article was originally published in CreativeFuture.


Policy Highlights : 5th Feb to 12th Feb’ 2021

The Bill is introduced by the Union Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, bearing the title “The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions Of Service) Bill, 2021” The Bill proposes to transfer its powers to High Courts (for patent, trademarks, GI, Plant Varieties related issues) and to Commercial Courts (for copyright matters). The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the proposed bill states that analysis of data of the last three years has shown that tribunals in several sectors have not necessarily led to faster justice delivery and they are also at a considerable expense to the exchequer. The tribunals that are proposed to be abolished in this phase are of the kind which handle cases in which public at large is not a litigant or those which neither take away any significant workload from High Courts which otherwise would have adjudicated such cases nor provide speedy disposal.


The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition filed by “The International Association for Protection of Intellectual Property (India Group)” which sought direction to extend tenure of present Chairman of the “Intellectual Property Appellate Board” (IPAB), till the new Chairman is appointed.


Bollywood star Salman Khan apologised for mistakenly’ submitting a false affidavit in the Jodhpur session court in 2003, during his hearing in a case related to the poaching of two blackbucks in Jodhpur in 1998. Salman was arrested in 1998 for hunting two blackbucks in in Kankani village near Jodhpur. At that time, a case under Arms Act was registered against him and the court had asked him to submit his arms license.


The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has issued a new notification to filmmakers, to display the title, casting and credits of a film in the language of the movie that has been applied for certification and the same may be displayed in any other language if so desired.


The Internet and Mobile Association of India has released its long-promised “implementation toolkit”. Toolkit lists some laws applicable to online content and legislation dealing with subjects such as “indecent” representation of women, sexually explicit content, improper use of state emblems and atrocities against minorities.


Union minister of information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said guidelines and directives for OTT (over-the-top) platforms are almost ready. He claimed, he gets several complaints and suggestions in regard to content on platforms every day. The guidelines and directions are almost ready and will be implemented very soon.


The Central Government has filed a transfer petition in the Supreme Court seeking transfer of cases pending in different High Courts for regulation of Over The Top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Hotstar etc., to the Supreme Court.

This article was originally published in IPRMENTLAW.


Google’s Tussle Over Payment for News Content in Australia

The ongoing tussle between two major US online platforms (Google and Facebook) and the Australian government over proposed legislation that would require the two internet platforms to pay Australian media for using their news content has just been joined by a third party, Microsoft. The legislation would enshrine in law a proposed News Media Bargaining Code developed by Australia’s competition authority, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Microsoft has waded into the debate unequivocally on the side of Australia, and in a very timely manner. This positioning by a major US corporation will have wider implications for other countries, such as Canada, seeking to deal with the issue of requiring Google and other major platforms to compensate news content providers for content used on their services.

Does Microsoft’s alignment with the provisions of the ACCC’s Code spring from a genuine concern over the fate of news outlets, many of which are dying on the vine as advertising dollars shift from traditional media to online service providers, or from commercial interest? According to Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, it is both. In a personal blog released late last week, Smith makes the case for maintaining a free and financially healthy Fourth Estate as a critical element of democracy. He recognized that the Australian legislation, about which I reported last week, will help redress the imbalance that exists between technology and journalism by requiring negotiations, backed up by a binding arbitration mechanism, between the two internet giants (“tech gatekeepers”) and independent news organizations. Although the Australian legislation applies only to Google and Facebook, who are specifically named, Smith says that Microsoft would willingly submit itself to the proposed Australian disciplines. This would be both the right thing to do and would also be good business for Microsoft.

Google and Facebook are caught by the legislation because of their market dominance. The fact that two US companies are specifically targeted in the legislation of another country has led to intervention by the US government (the previous Trump Administration) through the US Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) and the US Embassy in Canberra. The USTR wrote to the Australian Senate committee reviewing the legislation that the US government is concerned that “an attempt, through legislation, to regulate the competitive positions of specific players in a fast-evolving digital market, to the clear detriment of two U.S. firms, may result in harmful outcomes”. Smith points out that it would have been better for the legislation to have targeted any company that exceeded a specified market share rather than call out specific named companies. He suggested a market dominance threshold of 20 percent to trigger the legislation. (Google dominates 95 percent of online search in Australia and is clearly a better search engine at the moment although if Bing attained scale and Microsoft invested more in it, it could become competitive).  If the legislation was contingent on a 20 percent market share, and if Microsoft was able to reach that threshold, then it would readily comply according to Smith;

“…the obligations…could easily be written to apply to any search business that has more than 20% market share in Australia. At Microsoft, we are fully prepared to aim for this search share and become subject to the law’s obligations the day we do.”

Google has resorted to various threats to try to stop the legislation. These range from curtailing or cutting its search function in Australia, removing news listings from Search, or even leaving the Australian market altogether. It has tried to mobilize Australian users to pressure their government to back off. At the same time, it rolled out—and then retracted—an offer to pay for some news content, but on its terms, called the Google News Initiative. Google’s “dangle of the carrot” payment proposal was very recently put back into play (after Microsoft entered the fray), restoring its offer to pay for some content but only on condition that it reserved the right to terminate any contracts reached if the Australian government followed through by legislating the Bargaining Code.

Smith also takes aim at the US government for intervening with Australia on this issue, expressing hope that the Biden Administration will not double-down on past representations made by USTR. In fact, he urges the US government to adopt a similar provision to that being enacted in Australia, “requiring tech companies to support a free press”. There are no current proposals in the US to do this although there was draft legislation in the previous Congress, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (HR 2054), that would have provided US news publishers with a four-year exemption from anti-trust restrictions, permitting them to combine to negotiate with major platforms.

The fact that Microsoft has waded into this issue is good news for Australia and will likely result in the US government standing back. When one or two US companies are on one side of an issue involving a foreign country it is relatively easy for the US government to take a position to “defend US interests”. When there are US companies on both sides of an issue it is much more difficult to intervene, especially when both are large, powerful entities with significant lobbying clout in Washington. My guess is that the US embassy in Canberra will be monitoring the legislation but staying out of the melee in future.

As for the legislation itself, the Australian Senate committee responsible for reviewing it has reported out, rejecting any changes after holding hearings and listening to various threats and proposals put forward by both Google and Facebook. Google’s arguments that the legislation is “unworkable” have been undermined by Microsoft’s endorsement of the proposal. The only new proviso put forward by the committee was a proposal that the legislation be reviewed a year after adoption, recognizing that there may be a need for tweaks to the binding arbitration process envisaged by the Code. The ultimate intent of the resort to binding arbitration, of course, is to avoid having to go there by encouraging the two sides to reach a commercial agreement on payment for news content. The legislation will now proceed with a view to adoption within the next few weeks.

These developments in Australia are being closely watched in Canada where news publishers are pushing for the adoption of a similar mechanism requiring the platforms to negotiate. As I wrote back in September (“A Day of Reckoning is Coming for Google, Facebook and other major Online Platforms that access News Content without Payment: Will Canada be Next?”), the Trudeau government has made no secret of its intention to rebalance the playing field between news content producers and the major internet platforms. The exact proposals are still being worked on, but draft legislation is expected soon. Heritage Minister Guilbeault has said that “publishers must be adequately compensated for their work…We must address the market imbalance between news media organizations and those who benefit from their work”.

Guilbeault has made it clear that even though Google is now rolling out its Google News Initiative in several countries (it has signed up two small players in Canada although the program is not currently offered to Canadian consumers), this will not stop him from introducing legislation to require payment to news producers. He has acknowledged that one of the issues to be taken into account in devising a “made in Canada” solution is the existence of the USMCA, the trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico that went into effect on July 1, 2020.

When Guilbeault first started talking about supporting the news industry, opponents of the publishers’ proposals argued that the new NAFTA (the USMCA; called CUSMA in Canada) would constrain any Canadian policy measures since action against the major platforms would violate the terms of the trade agreement. In their report submitted to the government, “Levelling the Digital Playing Field”, News Media Canada, representing the major publishers, addressed this point by including an opinion from a noted trade expert, Barry Appleton, rebutting the USMCA argument.

Appleton pointed to Article 32.6 of the USMCA, known as the “cultural exception”. The definition of a “cultural industry” in the Agreement includes the publication of newspapers. Article 32.6 exempts a Canadian cultural industry from any of the USMCA obligations but there is a catch; the other two Parties (the US and Mexico) are allowed to retaliate with equivalent commercial effect against any measure taken by Canada to protect a cultural industry.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, a Party may take a measure of equivalent commercial effect in response to an action by another Party that would have been inconsistent with this Agreement but for paragraph 2 or 3.” (i.e. the exception).

This is a deterrent to ensure that Canada rarely, if ever, uses the cultural exception to override its obligations. It has never done so in the more than thirty years of the existence of the cultural exception (both the original Canada-US FTA and NAFTA had a similar clause) and if it did, it could be made to pay dearly. Retaliation could be applied against any sector, so if Canada’s other two CUSMA partners were really upset with a Canadian cultural measure that “violated” the Agreement they would exert pressure by hitting other, politically influential sectors unrelated to the cultural industry that was being protected. That is the criticism levelled at the cultural exception argument adopted by News Media Canada. I agree that the cultural exception is a pretty thin reed to rely on—it is more of a political fig-leaf than anything else–although it is certainly a defence that can be put forward.

But here is the key question. Is the cultural exception the only defence that Canada would have if it were to bring in a regime that required major internet platforms to strike compensation deals with news content providers, and would such a measure be challenged by the US? There are two angles to consider. The first is that it should be possible to deal with major global corporations like Google and Facebook through policies of general application (i.e. directed at any company meeting certain criteria—such as market dominance–regardless of national origin) in a manner that would be consistent with the CUSMA. For example the Competition Chapter of CUSMA, which happens to be exempt from the Dispute Settlement Mechanism of CUSMA by virtue of Article 21.6, requires that Each Party “shall ensure that the enforcement policies of its national competition authorities include…treating persons of another Party no less favorably than persons of the Party in like circumstances;”. In other words, if a compensation scheme for news publishers were dealt with as a competition issue, it could be devised in such a way as to be applicable to both Canadian and US or Mexican entities without running afoul of the CUSMA. Moreover, the decision could not be taken to dispute settlement by the US government.

The second is the willingness of the US government to invoke the USMCA if Canada established a requirement for certain platforms to negotiate payment for news content. Quite apart from devising measures of general application that would be CUSMA-proof, now that Microsoft has positioned itself in favour of a policy where internet platforms compensate news organizations, and is willing to do so itself, it is much less likely that the US government would invoke CUSMA to argue that US companies are being discriminated against. USTR’s hands are now effectively tied, if not legally than practically in terms of the internal politics affecting the US government’s position.

And it’s not as if Google itself could initiate action. The “investor-state” provision that existed in the previous NAFTA was dropped in the USMCA/CUSMA, ironically at US insistence. The Trump Administration felt that investor-state protections encouraged US companies to invest abroad, and so had it removed. The investor-state provision allowed a private party (a company) to invoke dispute settlement against a NAFTA government if that government had taken action that resulted in expropriation of the company’s property, or measures that were tantamount to expropriation. Changes of domestic policy that resulted in making it more difficult for a foreign NAFTA company to operate or generate expected returns on investment could be argued to violate investor-state protections. Canada lost several investor-state cases under NAFTA and the Canadian taxpayer had to compensate US companies as a result. Even where the investor-state clause was not invoked, it had the potential to exert a chilling effect over policy development and implementation if there was a possibility that a US (or Mexican) company might have grounds to object. No Canadian company ever succeeded in bringing a successful investor-state case against the US although there were a few such cases launched.

Microsoft’s entry into the debate in Australia will scramble the cards and make it easier for the Australian government to deal with Google. However, an added indirect bonus is to widen Canada’s scope for action given the decreased probability that Google will now be able to convince the US government to try to restrain Canadian action under the USMCA/CUSMA.

This article was originally published in Hugh Stephens Blog.


“To All the Boys” Producer Says Goodbye with “Always and Forever”

What began with a letter is poetically set to end with one too. Okay, probably an email, but you get the idea. Netflix’s hit To All the Boys series will premiere its final installment on February 12. As the trilogy concludes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) are simultaneously coming to the end of their high school career and awaiting their college acceptance letters.

We met the adorable couple in 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Lara Jean’s little sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), takes control of her shy sibling’s love life by mailing all the secret letters to crushes she had ever written. The one addressed to popular Peter made a lasting impression and rom com royalty was born. Temptation and jealousies threatened their bond in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love Youbut they weathered the (unseasonably late snow) storm and stayed together.



In To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean and Peter reach a crossroads. College applications are one of the most stressful benchmarks of teenage life and can make or break relationships. To All the Boys producer and ACE Entertainment CEO Matt Kaplan clued us in to where we’ll find the couple in their lives and in their relationship. “I think that one fun part about these is that they have learned to grow up together,” Kaplan said. “When you meet them, they’re kids and they don’t really know themselves. You’re going to get to see a side of Lara Jean and Peter that you’ve never really seen. As they make choices in their lives that will lead them in the direction that each of them are supposed to go in, they’re going to have to have hard conversations about what their wants are.”


TO ALL THE BOYS IVE LOVED BEFORE 3. Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky, Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey, in TO ALL THE BOYS IVE LOVED BEFORE 3. Cr. Katie Yu / Netflix © 2020


Regardless of the what Lara Jean and Peter’s futures hold, we’ll get to join them for at least one major adventure before their story concludes. The third film of the trilogy will see Lara Jean and her sisters visiting Korea together. Throughout the series, Lara Jean has found ways to honor her late mother’s heritage, but this is the first time we’ve taken a trip to the country with the Covey family. The cast and crew made the voyage together to capture the special scenes toward the end of production. “We felt like fans would get a kick out of watching the sisters and spending a little more time with them having a chance to bond while they were in Korea. We went to Korea, which was an amazing and fun experience to be able to go with Lana and Noah and the whole Covey clan. Almost all of us had never been before. To be able to go and experience the culture and eat the food and have a little fun behind the scenes while there was just so special.”

The popularity of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on Jenny Han’s bestselling novel, racked up huge viewership. It also made overnight stars out of the swoon worthy lead actors, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo. Kaplan recalls the film’s creators were as captivated with the pair when they met them as the fans were when they first saw them on screen. “From day one as we went through that audition process, we met Noah Centineo and Lana Condor and it was obvious the second they walked in the room. We knew they were the perfect fit and then it translated on screen.”



The similarities to 1980s teen rom com king, John Hughes, are inevitable. A group of fresh young faces dealing with high school drama set to a killer soundtrack harkens back to classics like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Kaplan says he was a fan of Hughes’ films, but that the formula for telling a teen story needed updating. “At ACE Entertainment, we focus on young adult, millennial, Gen Z content. We like to tell fresh, unique stories that feel relevant to today, but always have a new way of doing it. Ultimately, we started to take a look at material that we felt would resonate. I hadn’t seen a Korean American female lead anytime in the recent past. Especially one that touched on firsts and love, which Jenny Han did so beautifully in her books.”

Condor was a natural fit to bring Lara Jean to life and fans were instantly charmed, but Asian Americans cast as leads are still woefully underrepresented in Hollywood. Kaplan felt strongly about the material while crafting the film and indicated that it was an obvious choice for ACE Entertainment to produce. “The world just doesn’t look the way it did back when we were kids,” he explained. “What really resonated with me was hearing Jenny Han speak about her experiences and her culture as an Asian American. It felt like that would really be fun to see.”




The rest was history. “I just called Jenny and optioned the book and eventually got a script written on it and started to put it together,” Kaplan explained.

ACE moved forward with making the movie independently. After it had been produced, Netflix swooped in to claim distribution rights. Kaplan never shied away from the straight-to-streaming route that was a bit more of a gamble three years ago. “With streaming now becoming bigger and you having the ability to get it out in the same day to fans globally, I got really excited about trying to get this movie out to audiences in a way that we couldn’t have before. So teenagers, especially with Instagram and Twitter, are able to converse and find the movie and ultimately find a place to talk about it. That was something that as a producer I always had a gut about. It was obviously the right choice because [Netflix was] able to get it in front of so many eyeballs.”

A large part of the incredible success of the films has been the eye-popping visual style. Susan Johnson directed the first film, then cinematographer Michael Fimognari moved into the director’s chair for the two sequels. The warm, vibrant colors and dreamy glow are instantly recognizable. “When I called Michael about this project, the one thing I knew we wanted to figure out was how do we make a teen film look from a cinematography lens different than something we have seen before. I challenged Michael to work with me to figure out how do we shoot this not just like a bright, overly lit rom com. To Michael’s credit, which is why he was ultimately the perfect person to direct the third film, he just elevated it.”



In addition to beautiful visuals, the films are filled with buzzy new earworms. The artist Ashe, who delivered the memorable breakup anthem ‘Moral of the Story’ from To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, will be featured again. Kaplan teased that fans should keep their ears open while watching Always and Forever. “Lindsay Wolfington and Laura Webb have just done such an amazing job for us, specifically of breaking new artists. When we all grew up…movies and television were always where we found [new music] and I think people kind of went away from that as it became a very tentpole-driven business. Our focus was about continuing to find fresh new artists we can collaborate with.”

Despite our pleas to follow Lara Jean and Peter into college, Kaplan tried to tamp our expectations. The third To All the Boys film will be the last. “Never say never, but yes. We have not planned more films of this franchise. We want to leave it at them going off to school.”

The final film drops just in time for the upcoming love celebrations this weekend. Kaplan confirmed that it’s the perfect movie to stream with your Valentine or Galentine. “I hope that not just young people but everyone gets to enjoy Lara Jean and Peter’s story and have a fun Valentine’s Day themselves. I think that everyone who worked on the film did an amazing job and people will enjoy it.”

This article was originally published in The Credits.


New “WandaVision” Featurette Teases Wanda’s World Coming Undone

A new behind-the-scenes featurette makes the case that the wild ride we’ve been on in WandaVision hasn’t even kicked into high gear yet. Showrunner Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman’s patient, period-perfect series has begun to reveal some of the secrets it holds. The sitcom world that Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) exist in seems to be of Wanda’s creation. As we’ve seen in recent episodes, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) infiltrated Wanda’s Westview creation to find out just what the heck is going on in there. What we’ve learned thus far is that Wanda built this alternate reality in order to reanimate and live with her lost love Vision. Vision, of course, was brutally killed by Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, only he wasn’t snapped into dust, he was literally killed. This means that when the Avengers undid Thanos’s snap in Endgame, it couldn’t bring Vision back. Only Wanda could do that.

Recent episodes have pulled back the curtain a bit. We now know that S.W.O.R.D. is onto Wanda’s machinations, with Monica reporting from the inside and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), Dary Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) trying to crack the case from the outside. The end of the last episode offered the first evidence of those cracks starting to form. First, you’ve got Vision himself starting to realize something is not only wrong but that it’s Wanda’s doing. Second, you’ve got Wanda herself confronting S.W.O.R.D. in the real world, and third, you’ve got tremors within the larger MCU making things confusing for Wanda herself.

That was most evident when her brother Pietro/Quicksilver (played by the X-Men‘s Evan Peters!) shows up at the end of the episode. This was odd not only because it seems to be a bit of an X-Men crossover with Peters playing Pietro and not Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played him in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Pietro died in that film.

The featurette promises that Wanda’s world of Westview is about to break down. Paul Bettany himself says, “I think it’s gonna be really satisfying when people realize what is at the heart of this show.” And what will the heart of this series be? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but you can rest assured it will have major implications for the MCU going forward.

Check out the featurette below. WandaVision‘s next episode streams on Disney+ on Friday.