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Live: Lawmakers Grill Big Tech CEOs In Historic Hearing On Power; GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Emory's Dr. Carlos del Rio Discusses Louie Gohmert Testing Positive. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Gosh, I mean when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that an American company is directly aiding China, when you have an AI center, when you're working with universities and when your employees are talking about China trembling the world, it seems to really call into question your commitment to our country and our values. I see my times expired, I hope we have an additional round, Mr. Chairman.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): I thank the gentleman. I now recognize the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Raskin, for five minutes.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Zuckerberg, as you know, the proliferation of fake Facebook accounts was a key tool in the strategy of Russian interference in the American election. In 2016, American law enforcement, the Senate, the House have all found that Vladimir Putin engaged in this sweeping and systematic campaign to undermine American democracy in 2016 and to work for a victory for Donald Trump.

In his remarkable book Mind Blank, being polite here, Cambridge Analytica and the plot to break America, whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who worked for several years at Cambridge Analytica, recounts how the Russian assault on America and Cambridge Analytica's research depended on Facebook.

"When Cambridge Analytica launched in the summer of 2014, Steve Bannon's goal was to change politics by changing culture." Facebook data, algorithms, and narratives were his key weapons. The Cambridge Analytica team used these tools to identify people who exhibited the three traits in what they called the dark triad, narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

They then proceeded to bombard and activate these people, a small percentage of the American public, but still millions of people with increasingly dark and manipulative messages from fake Facebook pages, both to get them to vote for Trump, but more importantly to activate them as racists and White nationalists.

And they go on to describe the -- he goes on to describe the remarkable success of this campaign, both electorally but also politically, in the country in terms of sowing the terrible racial and ethnic divisions that you see in America today. So they waged a mass campaign of psychological warfare to polarize America around race and religion to activate racist and anti-Semites.

And it works splendidly for them, but it didn't work so well for America. So Mr. Zuckerberg, which parts of this narrative have you addressed or are you planning to address or do you just see that essentially as the cost of being a forum in a marketplace for ideas? Is there nothing that can be done about the use of Facebook to engender social division in America?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Congressman, thank you. Since 2016, there have been a lot of steps that we've taken to protect the integrity of elections. We've hired I think it's more than 30,000 people to work on safety and security. We have built up AI systems to be able to find harmful content, including being able to find more than 50 different networks of coordinated and authentic behavior and basically nation states trying to interfere in elections. (inaudible).

RASKIN: Let -- can I pause you -- let me just pause you there for a question because I'm interested in that. The stop hate for profit campaign is a coalition that includes the color of change, the anti- defamation league and other civil rights groups, and they're targeting Facebook right now for a boycott because of the rapid spread of hate messages online, the presence of boogaloo and other right-wing extremist groups trying to infiltrate and disrupt Black Lives Matter protests, and the fact that alt-right racists and anti-Semitic content flourishes on Facebook.

So they're asking you to remove these pages and essentially to join the movement for civil rights by not allowing that kind of content. Their boycotters include a lot of big companies, including Patagonia, Levi's, McDonalds, VW, Heineken and so on, but you seem not to be that moved by their campaign and I just wonder well what you think about what they're asking you to do?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, thanks. We're very focused on fighting against election interference, and we're also very focused on fighting against hate speech, and our commitments to those issues and fighting them go back years before this recent movement.

Since 2016, the defenses that the company has built up to help secure elections, not just in the U.S. but around the world, I think are some of the most advanced that any company or government has in the world now.

We routinely now collaborate with law enforcement and intelligence agencies and are able to sometimes identify threats coming from other countries before governments are even able to. In terms of fighting hate, we have built really sophisticated systems. Our goal is to identify it before anyone even sees it on the platform, and we built AI systems and as I mentioned have tens of thousands of people working on safety and security with the goal of getting the stuff down so that way -- before people even see it.

[14:35:09] And right now, we're able to proactively identify 89 percent of the hate speech that we take down before I think it's even -- even seen by other people. So, I want to better than 89 percent. I'd like to get that to 99 percent, but we have a massive investment here. We invest in billions of dollars (inaudible).

RASKIN: Can you just -- because my times almost out, can you just address the proliferation of fake accounts? I understand annually you get 6.5 billion fake accounts produced there, but in some sense you have a profit motive that's linked to that because that's what's reported to your investors, the number of accounts. Are you working zealously to try to fare it out, these fake accounts that are used to spread hate and disinformation?

CICILLINE: The gentleman's time has expired, but the witness may answer the question.

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, absolutely. We work hard on this. We take down billions of fake accounts a year who - a lot of that is just people trying to set up accounts to spam people for commercial reasons, a - a very small percent of that are nation-states trying to interfere in elections but we're very focused on trying to find those.

Having fake and - and harmful content on our platform does not help our business, it hurts our business. People do not want to see that stuff and - and they use our services less when they do. So we are aligned with people in order to take that down and we invest billions of dollars a year in doing so.

RASKIN: I yield back. Thank you.

[14:41:38]

CICILLINE: The committee will stand in recess for 10 minutes while we fix a technical feed with one of our witnesses.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, so we will await this 10-minute recess here. You've been listening to the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google's parent company, Alphabet, testifying before the House Anti-Trust Subcommittee.

I want to bring in our experts to talk about this. Starting first with CNN tech reporter, Brian Fung.

Brian, tell us what - actually, just a moment. I want to bring in Donie O'Sullivan, our business reporter to talk about this.

Donie, what were the top lines that really stood out to you here?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, and we're seeing Facebook is getting mostly the questioning here. And really interesting, today is just the cherry on top of a very long, months'- long investigation on the part of this committee.

They obtained over a million documents. They've done hours of behind- closed-door questioning of staff of these companies. And Representative Jerry Nadler asked Mark Zuckerberg a lot of question about the acquisition of Instagram in 2012. And the committee have released internal Facebook communications from Zuckerberg as describing Instagram as a threat.

And Nadler said to Zuckerberg, you know, rather than competing with this platform that you viewed as a threat, you guys just acquired it. And Zuckerberg responded that yes, the FCC did approve the acquisition. The committee pointed out that that can be reviewed.

I thought that stood out also. The fact Jeff Bezos, I don't think we've heard from him since his opening statements. He's sort of being left off the hook. But maybe more questions for him after the break.

KEILAR: Yes, they're fixing something, a technical difficulty. So, hopefully we will hear more from him.

Julie, what did you think? What stood out to you?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR, "NEXT MOVE": We haven't heard from Jeff Bezos. A technical feed that lasted that long. Come on, guys. What was going on there?

Brianna, I have to say I feel like some of the lawmakers didn't read the sign that said this is an anti-trust hearing. This was about competition concerns.

Do these guys have some form of monopolistic or duopolistic power. As important as fake news is, as fake news accounts, whatever it is, it's not about this hearing and it's not about this investigation.

If this was the court of public opinion, these guys have gone nowhere fast today in proving any kind of consumer harm. And that's what you to prove if you want to take action and make law changes.

This is kind of a disaster for these guys. They've gone nowhere fast.

KEILAR: You think it's a disaster? Julia, it's not unusual for tech CEOs to come and get other questions that might be pertinent to what's going on in the news but you think it's counter-productive here?

CHATTERLEY: Yes. I think having all four of the tech titans in a room, there's a lot of overlap between their businesses, slighting each other as being competitive.

[14:40:01]

But we can't get focused, we can't do a deep dive to understand the power, the importance. You haven't even heard from Jeff Bezos, of course.

But when you talk about a company that has 40 percent or approaching 40 percent of the E-commerce market in America, there are certain questions to be asked about the pricing powers.

Do they increase access to consumers and that benefit them? Or do they have a level of power and control that ultimately could feedback and suppress innovation? And that somehow hurts consumers? Because that's what has to be proved here.

We need to do deep dives. Having these four guys in a room is not conducive to getting real answers here, I don't think. We're getting sidetracked.

KEILAR: It did feel like, talking to the CEO of the parent company of Google, that you heard more from the lawmakers than was revealed by the CEO.

Brian Stelter, what about you? What are your big takeaways here?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES: There was an early exchange when we first dipped into the Q and A involving Google, that is emblematic of the larger conversation, about whether these companies are too powerful.

Lawmakers looking into this, they are five years too late. These companies have grown and grown, both in the Obama and Trump years. But belatedly, the lawmakers are looking at it.

When you or I search on Google now, when we type in a question, often times, the result is a Google answer. Google is finding the answer or directing you to a Google site.

That is a change in the Google algorithm. And so, that is an example of possible consumer harm. However, Google says that's an improvement, a benefit because it's the best, fastest answer.

There you go. That's the tension, the story.

And then the parallel track, where you have Republican lawmakers accusing them of anti-conservative bias. Let's remember the claims about anecdote, not backed up by data or science. These are stories, not statistics. But we're probably going to hear more of that from Republicans.

KEILAR: Brian Fung, let's bring you in.

Big takeaways for you?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Well, as a basic matter, the big question is whether or not the companies have harmed competition. So, too, the extent these revolve around hate speech, those are not key issues.

What's really important for the lawmakers to determine is getting the evidence they need in order to determine whether or not the companies have harmed rivals or harmed consumers in ways that ultimately undermine competition in the marketplace.

KEILAR: And, Brian, one of the things, listening to Mark Zuckerberg, talk about the acquisition of Instagram, and the language he used to say we viewed them as a competitor and we viewed them as a compliment to Facebook. And he talked about that now Instagram is on the team. I mean, these CEOs are there with the goal, which is to make what they

do seem a lot less cutthroat than what it is

FUNG: Absolutely. The arguments Zuckerberg is putting throughout is Instagram is a compliment to Facebook services and only Facebook could make Instagram into what it is today.

And he argued at the time the Federal Trade Commission didn't challenge the merger. But that was then and this is now.

The FCC is a very different place, with different commissioners. And it's also currently looking, actively, at past tech acquisitions and if they were anti-competitive, even if the agency didn't realize that at the time.

For Zuckerberg to highlight the FCC's decision not to oppose the merger, simply draws attention to the fact that the FCC now could now arrive at a very different conclusion.

KEILAR: Maybe a flimsy defense.

So, Donie, what do you want to hear? Assuming we do get to hear from Jeff Bezos, what do you want to hear from the head of Amazon?

O'SULLIVAN: I think the big question there is going to be how Amazon uses search from independent retailers that use their platform. I think the line of questioning will follow to say, are you looking at this data, how independent retailers perform on your platform and figuring out a way to acquire them or compete with them and bring products to market that you can basically undercut people using your platform.

That's a theme throughout this. Google was asked during the hearing if they used their data to figure out how to quash competitors. And there wasn't a clear answer on that.

[14:45:04]

And also I think we heard questioning about Google's work in China. I thought it was interesting in Mark Zuckerberg's written testimony where he says Facebook was proud to be an American company.

And that is quite relevant at the moment, when you think about Tik-Tok and how the Trump administration is potentially considering banning Tik-Tok, the Chinese-owned app, from the United States.

I think we'll hear more about that when the session resumes -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It is interesting to hear some of these simple questions that are yes or no and you're not getting a yes or no answer. Maybe the answer is yes, some of the times when we hear the CEOs side stepping that.

If I could have all of your lovely voices stand by for me as we continue to monitor this historic hearing on the power of these big tech companies.

Next, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert tests positive for coronavirus. And this is just one day after he was within feet of the attorney general. And now he is saying wearing a mask may be to blame. You have to hear this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:27]

KEILAR: We want to get back to our breaking news. Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert testing positive for coronavirus. The Texas Republican was seen walking behind attorney general, William Barr, yesterday as he arrived for a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Neither were wearing a mask. And then they went into the hearing room. Yesterday, another committee meeting. Again no mask.

CNN's Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Tell us what you're hearing there and what lawmakers are saying, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, lawmakers are taking aback by it, because a number of them have been in contact with Louie Gohmert, or have seen him interacting with members on the floor of the House. As he's been doing frequently for weeks now.

And it is something that I've observed watching from the House gallery, watching him interact with members, sitting down next to them on the House floor, talking to them. I I've never seen him wearing a mask on the House floor as he's carried on.

In fact, I'm asked him directly why he didn't want to wear a mask and he said, in late June, if I get the coronavirus, I will wear it.

And then I said to him, well, if you could be an asymptomatic carrier of this virus, something that health experts say is a reason why you should be wearing a mask. And he said, I'm not afraid of you because, he said -- I'll give you the exact quote -- "But I keep getting tests and I don't have it. But I'm not afraid of you. But if I get it, I'll wear a mask."

Now he did talk to a local Texas station just earlier and he explained why he thinks he got the virus. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I can't help but think that, if I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it.

But I know moving the mask around, getting it just right, I'm bound to put some virus on the mask that I've sucked in. That is most likely what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: So there's a lot to unpack there. One, that flatly contradicts the science and what actual public health experts say, is that you don't get the virus by wearing a mask. In fact, that is something in which you wear a mask to prevent yourself from spreading the disease and to protect yourself.

Also Louie Gohmert has not been wearing a mask and he's not seen around the House wearing a mask. In fact, he doesn't wear one on the House floor. He has worn it during the House committee meetings because it is required but pulled off as he is speaking. It's unclear when he thinks wearing a mask may have caused him to get the virus.

But that is, as I say, not supported by the science and certainly not supported by what we're hearing from the Centers for Disease Control and others who say it is imperative to wear a mask.

And as you mentioned earlier, Brianna, he was seen interacting with Bill Barr, the attorney general, outside of the committee hearing yesterday. Barr, we're told, will get tested after the interaction.

KEILAR: If we could put some of the pictures back up of Louie Gohmert in various settings. Including in committee hearings where, for instance, here is one he's in the hallway, no mask. He's near people who are wearing them. But Bill Barr is not wearing one.

Here he is with a face covering, not covering his face, which would render a face covering useless because it is supposed to cover one's face.

Here he is in a committee meeting not wearing his mask as he's speaking, which is not particularly unusual.

But you have to consider, Manu -- let's just talk about the risk factors for -- I mean, he's not speaking in fact. But let's talk about the risk factors of people around him.

Because if he is someone who was pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic -- and we watched him yesterday in a hearing room, he was there for an awfully long time. He was talking. He's inside where transmission is higher than it is outside.

And so as he's speaking. And we know this, this is basic science, the virus is aerosolized.

So in the hearing room with a number of lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, at times speaking and not wearing a mask, so they are there not protected from his germs, right?

[14:55:03]

RAJU: Yes. And look, there were probably interactions that we don't see inside of the hearing room. There are ante rooms where they congregate. And his practice is typically not to wear a mask.

It is safe to assume that he probably at certain times while interacting with members yesterday was also not wearing a mask as he was interacting with them in close quarters.

And I could tell you, I saw him last week, last Wednesday, on the House floor interacting with a lot of members. That is a week. We don't know if he was infected then or a few days before or a few days after. But certainly last Wednesday, I watched him for several -- at least a couple of hours.

I kept popping back into the House chamber and he was still there during an extended vote series. He was sitting next to Chip Roy, a Texas Republican congressman, and sitting both next to each other and maskless and carrying on an extended conversation.

And we reached out to see what he is planning to do here. But that is obviously a concern that a lot of members have, a lot of aides have, whether or not Louie Gohmert may have exposed them to this -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Manu, definitely. Stand by for us, if you will.

I want to bring in Dr. Carlos Del Rio, from Emory.

And, you know, one of the things that the -- the key thing to take away here from Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has tested positive and refusing to wear a mark, he's surmising, Doctor, that he got coronavirus because he did wear a mask.

What do you think about that?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, he's obviously wrong. And you don't get coronavirus for wearing a mask. You get coronavirus because you don't wear a mask. And it is very clear that he wasn't wearing a mask.

I think I want to emphasize again that the reason we wear a mask is to protect ourselves and others from getting infected. I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear a mask to protect me. And it is very important that everybody wears a mask.

There are many types of masks. If I want to protect myself, I need a N-95 or an KN-95, which is what we use in the hospital seeing patients with COVID.

But if I want general protection and decrease remarkedly protect my chance of getting infected, I need to use a cloth mask or a surgical mask. The cloth masks are very useful for people to not infect other individuals.

So the congressman is wrong. He didn't get COVID for wearing a mask. He got COVID because he wasn't wearing a mask and he was probably around other people not wearing masks.

KEILAR: So how at risk are other lawmakers who -- because, look, we know he was in close proximity, speaking, not wearing a mask, and not social distancing with lawmakers. Are they at risk and what should they be doing? DEL RIO: They are at risk. And not only those not wearing a mask but

those that were wearing a mask are at risk because, if he's infected an not wearing a mask, I'm not protected.

If I'm in front of someone not wearing a mask and I'm wearing a regular cloth mask, my chances of getting infected are decreased but not absent. They go down to about 30 percent.

So those wearing masks were at risk because he wasn't wearing a mask and he was already infected.

KEILAR: And so what would you advise then for lawmakers who are now trying to figure out what they need to do? And what would you say for committee hearings where obviously you have at least a member who is infected and speaking without a mask on and even though there's other lawmakers with a mask.

DEL RIO: I'm going to say what I think is really important that somebody said, is that we need a national mandate to wear a mask. We need to stop playing with this. We can stop transmission of this virus if we all wear a mask.

And I know wearing a mask is uncomfortable. I don't like it. But right now it is necessary. And I think we all should do it. It should be for a short period of time, maybe four to six weeks. Dr. Redfield said four to eight weeks.

But if everybody wore a mask, we could decrease the chance of infection significantly. And I think it is time for Congress to implement a national mandate on that.

KEILAR: Dr. Del Rio, thank you so much for joining us from Atlanta. We appreciate it.

And our coverage will continue now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We will take it.

Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for joining me. You're watching CNN.

Here is what I could tell you. President Trump is in Texas right now. Texas, the state on the verge of surpassing New York for the total number of coronavirus cases well over 400,000.

But the president is not there to talk COVID. Nope. Instead, the president has been meeting with supporters and a fundraising committee. And this hour, he will tour an oil rig.

[15:00:06:]

The lack of focus on this pandemic is even more galling when you consider the fact that the U.S. is coming off the deadliest day since late May.