Return to Transcripts main page

CNN 10

Part Three of Four Part Series on Facebook

Aired February 22, 2019 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome. I`m Carl Azuz for CNN 10 and this Friday we`re presenting the third installment of our four part

special report on Facebook. The company who`s monthly users include a quarter of the global population has become a networking tool many of them

can`t live without and made mistakes many can`t forgive. The nation of Russia factors in today. It has repeatedly denied interfering in

international affairs like the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But the world`s biggest social media company started noticing suspicious activity on it`s platform, activity it says was connected to Russian

operatives and how Facebook reacted dramatically damaged the trust its users had in it. Once again, Laurie Segall has our in depth report and

meanwhile is featuring breaking news and other stories from around the world.


LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: It was 2016 and politicians had realized the reach of Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today you wrote a Facebook post - -

SEGALL: The platform was integral to politics and had been for years.

(PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA): I`m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.

SEGALL: But unnoticed with all that hype - -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New details about the extent of Facebook`s role in Russia`s election interference campaign in 2016.

SEGALL: A campaign on Facebook to disrupt the U.S. election and divide America was well underway.


SEGALL: Meet Alex Stamos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye. It`s going to be good. Have a good day.

SEGALL: He`s a respected figure in security.

STAMOS: Survive the last day.

SEGALL: Today is August 17th, 2018.

STAMOS: Tough to say goodbye to folks but I`m glad for what comes afterwards.

SEGALL: It`s the last day he`ll call himself Chief Security Officer of Facebook. He`s been there three years.

STAMOS: You know it feels weird to live through history from the inside. I think naturally I want to question whether I did everything I could.

SEGALL: It was Stamos` team who discovered Russians were weaponizing Facebook to influence the election, a pivotal moment for democracy and a

turning point in Facebook history. It started the spring and summer of 2016. The race for president was in full gear. The Facebook security team

discovered suspicious activity connected to Russian intelligence and reported their findings to U.S. law enforcement.

Why was Facebook not transparent as people went to vote, you know, in - - in the fall?

STAMOS: It just wasn`t seen as our position to, kind of, get involved publicly in these - - these massive political issues. And in this

situation, you know, you do not want to be seen as putting your thumb on the scale one way or the other.

SEGALL: At the time, Zuckerberg downplayed it.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER AND CEO OF FACEBOOK: The idea that fake news on Facebook of - - of which, you know, it`s - - it`s a very small amount of -

- of - - of the content influenced the - - the election in any way I think is a - - a pretty crazy idea. I just think of the time I was way to

dismissive. I think I just reacted and had a - - had a negative visceral reaction to the idea that people were somehow tricked.

SEGALL: By January 2017, a U.S. intelligence report linked the spread of hyper partisan fake news to the Internet Research Agency. A Russian

company with close ties with Putin and Russian intelligence.

STAMOS: Their entire goal was to reduce the quality of discourse to increase anger and divisiveness in the country.

SEGALL: The Russians took advantage of Facebook`s advertising tools which allows advertisers to target people specifically based on their interests,

even their political bias. On top of that, the more polarizing and divisive their posts were the more likely Facebook`s algorithms which show

them to more people. Publicly, the company was limited in its transparency. There`d be even more revelations later.

Internally Facebook execs treated the foreign interference like the shift to mobile, all hands on deck and started to increase it`s security team.

By 2018, it would be more than 30,000. But Facebook`s failure to anticipate and quickly address foreign government influence on the platform

put the company on thin ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facebook battling a massive data misuse scandal.

SEGALL: The straw that broke the camel`s back would come early 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of users had their information improperly obtained by a data firm - -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: - - data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data from Facebook users - -

SEGALL: Data of up to 87 million Facebook users to be precise collected before the election. The way they got the data was simple. Through a

personality quiz app taken by about 300,000 Facebook users, what few of us knew was taking the quiz gave the researcher access to not only our data

but also our friend`s data. This methodology was completely permissible at the time up until Facebook restricted access in 2015, looser privacy

settings allowed developers more access to our information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are ethical debates that will impact 2 billion people about user data, about the spread of fake news, about the

weaponization of the platform - -

SEGALL: People were outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have users asking should I be spending so much time on Facebook. Maybe I should delete it. .

SEGALL: It all dated back to when Facebook opened up the platform to developers.

STAMOS: I think they built something that was beyond their wildest dreams and it was extremely powerful in ways they had no idea it could be


SEGALL: Did you think, oh no, because this is, you know, this was based off of the platform that you were an early architect of?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes is the answer. I don`t think it was something that you could have predicted or even thought was a - - a risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The social media powerhouse has been reeling seeing its worst day in four years.

SEGALL: It was a turning point for the company. User trust eroded and Facebook stock price plunged and the anger only amplified as days went by

and there was silence from the upper ranks. Until Mark finally decided to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senior Tech Correspondent Laurie Segall got this exclusive interview.

SEGALL: To me. What happened? What went wrong?

ZUCKERBERG: This was a major breech of trust and - - and I`m really sorry that this happened.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE: They were previous incidences where they had to issue apologies for breeches in the past. This was different.

SEGALL: Senator John Thune and much of Washington was watching closely. Everybody wants you to show up. Will you testify before Congress?

ZUCKERBERG: I`m happy to if it`s the right thing to do.

SEGALL: You are the brand of Facebook. You are the name of Facebook. People want to hear from you.

ZUCKERBERG: We just want to make sure that we send whoever is best informed at doing that.

SEGALL: Zuckerberg agreed to testify on April 10th, 2018 and the prep started. Inside Facebook, they built a mock hearing room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He worked really hard to prepare and he was ready.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, that was as high stakes as it gets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Zuckerberg is there any regulation - -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just hours away from testifying.

SEGALL: It felt historic. The way it was for the tobacco execs in 1994 and I remember someone that day told me they had to bring in a extra row of

chairs for the Senators because there was so much interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are listening. America is listening and quite possibly the world is listening too.

SEGALL: And wondering, could Zuckerberg who historically has had a hard time with high pressure public moments deliver.

ZUCKERBERG: We didn`t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake and I`m sorry. I started

Facebook. I run it and I`m responsible for what happens here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His performance in front of Congress was poised and he had the right answers. I think he did laps around the people there.

SEGALL: But part of that success was due to the fact that many of the questions asked by the Senators demonstrated a lack of understanding of how

Facebook and tech in general works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I`m emailing within WhatsApp, does that ever inform your advertisers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you sustain a business model in which users don`t pay for your service?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, we run ads.


SENATOR JOHN WARNER: It was an embarrassment to the members of Congress. It reconfirmed what most of the valley and frankly probably many of the

viewers thought was, most of these men and women don`t even understand the basic business model little alone the amount of data that`s being collected

in the nature of these new communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there was going to have to be a different approach taken in the future.

SEGALL: An approach many thought would be regulation. But after two days of testimony, what kind was unclear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t want to put a heavy burden on a goose that laid the golden egg.

SENATOR JOHN WARNER: Social media`s not going away. Technology`s not going away. I would hope they would work with us.

SEGALL: Facebook would try to get in front of impending regulation by promising to give users more control over their data. And by investigating

tens of thousands of other apps that were allowed to collect user data but it still came down to one fundamental question. Did making money get in

the way of Facebook`s mission to ultimately connect the world?