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At This Hour

Facebook Papers Paint Damning Picture of Role in Insurrection; FDA Advisers to Review Data on Vaccines for Children Tomorrow; Biden Delays Release of JFK Assassination Files, Citing COVID. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 11:30   ET


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Will not judge us kindly.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We don't fact check political ads and we don't do this to help politicians but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.

O'SULLIVAN: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced intense criticism from Democrats in 2019 when he said Facebook would not fact check politicians allowing people like Trump to pay to spread targeted lies on the platform. Leaked internal Facebook documents reveal the company's own research show that people trust information shared by politicians more than regular users, making politician shared misinformation especially believable.

Facebook even ran a focus group of users in Chicago, according to the leaked documents, during which people told us Facebook has a greater responsibility for labeling false content shared by political leaders than they do for ordinary users. But still, the company's executive stand by their decision not to fact-check politicians.

And last summer, when Zuckerberg refused to act on a Trump post that trended, looting in Minneapolis would lead to shooting, employees pushed back, at least one person even left the company.

So why did you quit?

TIM AVENI, FORMER FACEBOOK EMPLOYEES: I've seen a couple times now that Mark doesn't uphold his principles. Zuck has told us over and over that calls to violence would not be tolerated on the platform even if they were by the president of the United States.

O'SULLIVAN: Internal Facebook memo in August 2020 noted Facebook's decision-making on content policy is routinely influenced by political considerations. The documents were leaked by Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who first began providing documents to The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. Haugen has filed a complaint about the company to the SEC.

Part of one of this whistleblower's disclosures to the SEC is about this idea that the team at Facebook that works with governments essentially has to keep governments on side, get involved in the content moderation decisions. And from one of Facebook's own internal documents, an employee wrote, Facebook's decision-making on content policy is routinely influenced by political considerations. If you could just explain to this to us a little bit.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, ADVISER TO FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: This is an incredibly important issue. Facebook has engineers who are focused on how to keep the platform safe. And the public policy team will evaluate that and decide, is this going to upset certain political forces. And are they going to complain that we are trying to censor them? And so this incredible sensitivity to the political perspective builds enormous frustration inside of the company. That's what the documents reveal. These engineers saying, let us do our job. Stop manipulating what we're doing to keep a couple politicians happy. And what's astonishing here is to see the way Facebook has been played like a fiddle, especially by the conservative right.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Donie is joining me now with more on this. Donie, you reported over the weekend about Facebook Executive Nick Clegg and the message that he sent to Facebook staff ass more and more of this reporting coming out. And I have to say I couldn't believe it, trying to question the motivations of the journalists reporting on this. Lay this out for us. What did he say and what does it tell you about how seriously Facebook is taking this?

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Yes. Nick Clegg, who is now a Facebook executive, a former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, would you believe, he wrote an internal post on Saturday telling Facebook employees to brace for more bad headlines, as he called it. And he sort of suggested that news organizations, that journalists around the world who are digging into these documents, who cover all the ills of Facebook and all the bad stuff, frankly, that we know happens on their platforms, that that somehow is motivated because Facebook has taken, you know, a slice out of the news business.

You know, I think it's just sort of reflective of Facebook's attitude toward all of this. Oftentimes with critics, everybody is wrong except for Facebook, right? They'll often say their researchers are wrong, they'll say the media is wrong, they'll say these whistleblowers are wrong. Everybody is wrong apart from them. So, I think it's not surprising at all.

BOLDUAN: But no less disappointing. That's literally attack the messenger on this, reading your own internal documents.

I mean, you're also learning, taking it in the bigger sense, sort of looking at the impact on the insurrection. You're also learning more about Facebook's true failure to moderate content outside the United States and the huge impact that has.

O'SULLIVAN: That's right. Just to give you a sense of how many documents there actually is, Frances, the whistleblower, leaked tens of thousands. These are just documents that pertain to hate speech and to January 6th, but there were tens of thousands of pages of these documents. And she actually took photos of the computer screen rather than screenshot it because she thought she'd get caught.


What we are learning as we know the role that Facebook played in amplifying Stop the Steal and helping fuel that movement that would play an essential role in the insurrection. But you're right, Kate. Outside of the U.S., Facebook's biggest market actually, India, there's an example in these documents that The New York Times reported -- by the way, all these documents coming out part of a consortium of news organizations going through these right now, 17 in total -- a Facebook employee set up an account and just followed the accounts in India that Facebook itself was recommending. And within a few weeks, that account was covered, the feed was covered, and hate and culture violence and things like that.

Same thing happened in the United States, Kate, when a Facebook employee set up an account to look like a conservative mom living in North Carolina, after three weeks, she was getting recommendations not just for QAnon but to follow pages belonging to the 3 Percenter militia appearing to belong to that group, f course, went on to be involved in the insurrection.

BOLDUAN: Stay on top of it, Donie. We'll continue to talk about it. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, protesters against vaccine mandates swarm a basketball arena in New York supporting Kyrie Irving's refusal to get the shot. It's a small group but look at what happened. More on that, next.



BOLDUAN: Take a look at this video. These are anti-vaccine protesters swarming the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night, where the Brooklyn Nets played their home-opener. The reason being, the Nets won't let star player Kyrie Irving practice or play, as we've reported on, because he is refusing to get his coronavirus vaccine. And Irving supporters say they back him and his decision.


ALBERTO MALDONADO, BROOKLYN NETS PROTESTER: I support Kyrie because it is a personal choice. If Kyrie wants to do that, it's his body, his choice. Selfishly, do I want him with the Brooklyn Nets? Of course, as well as millions of other fans. He's good for the NBA, he's got a lot of talent, brings a lot to the table. Obviously they look like they miss him. But at the end of the day, it's more than basketball.


BOLDUAN: Let's focus on a different part of this pandemic and COVID vaccines. FDA vaccine advisers meet tomorrow to discuss whether the agency should grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID vaccine for younger children ages 5 to 11. Data from Pfizer that they the advisers will be reviewing shows the vaccine is nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in that age group. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says first shots in these younger kids could happen as early as next month.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If all goes well and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation for the CDC, it's entirely possible, if not very likely, that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for more on this is Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an internal medicine specialist, viral researcher. It's good to see you, Doctor.

So, FDA advisers are meeting tomorrow on this vaccine for 5 to 11- year-olds. What will they be looking at most closely, do you think? There's been approval -- the Pfizer vaccine has gone from one age group to the next to the next to the next. What questions do you have when it comes to this group?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST AND VIRAL RESEARCHER: Well, the first thing that you need to look at with any vaccine trial is, is it effective, and the answer is yes. It's been shown in two ways it's effective. One, it creates what they call a very robust creation of antibodies and immune response, A. And, B, when they tested it in the real world against children that were not vaccinated, it showed without a shadow of a doubt that the children that have gotten the vaccine at a much lower dose than adults get, by the way, are much safer. I mean, I think it was three to four times safer at contracting COVID. So, it's effective and it is safe.

BOLDUAN: And Dr. Fauci, as we heard, says if it gets the green light, shots for kids in this age group should be available in just a few weeks. Former FDA commissioner -- he's a former FDA commissioner, also a member of the Pfizer board, is making clear that Pfizer and the White House are kind of leaning into the strategy of having individual pediatricians to administer these shots. Let me play what Scott Gottlieb said about this.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The idea is to try to get it into pediatricians' offices because we know that getting children vaccinated is a much more consultative endeavor. Parents are going to want to talk to their own pediatrician about that. And so you want the vaccine to be delivered at those sites. You don't want children have to go to mass vaccination sites or even necessarily a pharmacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: It makes sense on its face, right, Dr. Rodriguez?

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: But that is a big change from how shots have been given to adults and even most teenagers. Do you think that's the right call and do you think doctors' offices are ready for this?

RODRIGUEZ: I think in theory it's the right call. I don't know if doctors' offices are ready. For example, my office, yes, we would be ready to give the Pfizer vaccine.


But the Moderna vaccine that requires certain temperatures and certain refrigeration, we're not ready for that. We don't have that equipment. So, it's going to evolve and that's the way they do it, a lot of red tape. And we know what happens red tape, when you throw the government and the private sector, it all gets jumbled up. So, I'm a little leery about this.

But it sounds great. Parents want to talk to their pediatrician, they don't want to go to mass vaccination centers, but let's see what happens. I think there's lot of hurdles to jump before it becomes effective.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, it says when you hear weeks, it doesn't gave lot of time for us to get over those hurdles though, right?

You mentioned Moderna. Moderna is also releasing data from its trial of kids ages 6 to 11. And Moderna's requested an EUA for people 12 to 17. The FDA hasn't granted that yet. Will that have any impact on how the process moves forward for the Moderna shot for even younger children? What do you think of this?

RODRIGUEZ: I think that it's good to have, you know, many more arrows in your quiver, but the thing is the Moderna shot again was shown at a lower dose to form a robust response in children. I just think the Moderna vaccine, because of its refrigeration requirements, may be a little bit more difficult to roll out. But we've also seen in adult populations the Moderna vaccine is a little bit more effective, so maybe it's worth all that. So, much is yet to be seen, you know. It's difficult to make an opinion at this point.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. But it's always good to have your perspective on it. Thank you, Doctor.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, the Biden administration delaying the public release of thousands of files on the John F. Kennedy assassination. The reason the White House says that they can't be made public just yet, that's next.



BOLDUAN: So, the White House is delaying the release of more documents on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. President Biden's memo says that there will be an interim release later this year and a more comprehensive release late next year.

The administration cites a significant impact of the pandemic as well as concerns about military defense and intelligence operations. But, you know, this raises -- this is interesting and strange and important.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali. So, Tim, first, as a historian, what is your reaction to hearing the release of these documents yet again, that it's delayed yet again?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The COVID pandemic has delayed so much declassification it's been -- for my colleagues and I, it's been really tough. I'm not talking about the COVID, of course, has been horrible for everyone, but it has had an effect on research and has an effect on the declassification by the National Archives and linked agencies. And I think the National Archives asked for the postponement. They just haven't had the archival power to put this material together and get it out before December of this year.

So, I think that's what's going on here. I don't think it's the White House wanting to withhold information and protect wrongdoers.

BOLDUAN: Well, one question about all of this is what will come out in kind of the final tranche of all of this, a lot of people believing that it's the most sensitive of the documents that would be coming out last. If any light this shed on covert actions, CIA operations regarding Cuba at the time, how much do you think we can possibly learn? Do you think there is a chance this will fundamentally alter the understanding that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone killed President Kennedy?

NAFTALI: Those are two great questions. Number one, I don't think it will fundamentally alter the best argument based on all the information that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. The releases thus far, however, have really reached -- have really altered our understanding of covert action during that period and have worked by the FBI domestically.

The 2018 releases for this historian were significant. I learned about discussions at the highest level in the U.S. government, for example, in 1962, harmlessly (ph) so-called poisoning the sugar supplies of Cuba and whether or not that would be appropriate. There are details of our operations in the Dominican Republic that we learned about.

Because of the nature of what Congress wanted to hear and learn about in 1998, the documents that were pulled together in the assassination review committee's collection include things that have nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald. They do have a lot to do with the secret world and our secret activities, and we're a better country for knowing about that, because it gives us an understanding of what we do and what we shouldn't do.

BOLDUAN: Look, this was -- this release was delayed -- was also delayed during the Trump administration and now we see this delay again. And so you see this headline and you think this isn't great for transparency. But you actually think that in the end what has been done is good for transparency, please explain.

NAFTALI: Well, one of the things that those of us who care about the history not only of the assassination but of court action is we like to know what we don't know.


And this particular agreement suggests that there will be an unclassified list of things that remain -- that will remain classified after 2022, so we can go after those materials and ask for more information as to why we aren't seeing them. That's a win for transparency.

BOLDUAN: A win for transparency. Well, I'm really looking forward to having you on when we get more of this out. It's great to see you. Tim, thank you very much.

NAFTALI: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. And thank you all so much for joining us At This Hour.

Inside Politics with John King begins after a quick break.