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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Facebook Releases Earnings Amid Widening Whistleblower Fallout; Military Seizes Power In Sudan; Japan's Princess Mako Set To Marry Commoner In Muted Ceremony. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London, but this is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Tonight, Facebook's earnings released as a whistleblower slams the company's priority of profits over ethics.

Then, Sudan's military takeover. Why the coup was expected and what happens next.

Plus, Japan's royal wedding. Status once again sacrificed for true love.

For much of the last month, we've heard from Facebook former employees and seen damning troves of internal documents all pointing to one conclusion --

the company prioritizes its profits over everything else. Just minutes ago, we got our first look at Facebook's latest quarterly earnings report, the

numbers driving their allegedly reckless behavior. They posted just over $29 billion in revenue, actually missing Wall Street predictions. But

earnings came in above expectations.

Whistle-blowers, like the one testifying before the British parliament today, say that the pursuit of that enormous sum of money overrides the

safety of its users, basic ethical standards, and the political stability of the countries it operates in.

Last quarter's earnings are just part of the larger picture. So here are two more numbers to fill in the rest. First, Facebook's market cap is more

than $900 billion. If that were a country, it would be the 17th largest economy in the world, outranking the GDP of nations like the Netherlands,

Saudi Arabia, or Turkey. That's because it's also the world's biggest social media platform with nearly 3 billion active monthly users.

That's more than the world's two most populous countries, China and India, combined. Each and every one of them targeted with the ads that make

Facebook most of its revenue.

Today's hearing in London further underlined the explosive allegations against Facebook.

Nick Paton Walsh has more.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Unquestionably it's making hate worse.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Familiar words looking for a new angry audience. Frances Haugen, Facebook whistle-

blower, hoping she can influence or speed new laws aimed by the U.K. parliament here, to, above all, protect children online.

HAUGEN: Ten to 15 percent of 10-year-olds were on the platform. Facebook could make a huge dent on this if they wanted to, and they don't because

they know that young users are the future of the platform, and the earlier they get them, the more likely they'll get them hooked.

WALSH: Demands for action in Britain, while many blames social media for more divisive politics, perturbed by the damage Instagram has reportedly

done to teenagers.

HAUGEN: When kids describe their usage of Instagram, Facebook's own research describes it as an addict's narrative. The kids say, this makes me

unhappy. I feel like I don't have the ability to control my usage of it and I feel if I left, I'll be ostracized. I am deeply worried it may not be

possible the make Instagram safe for a 14-year-old, and sincerely doubt it's possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old.

I am incredibly excited and I'm proud of the U.K. for taking such a world leading stance with regard to thinking about regulating social platforms. I

can't imagine Mark isn't paying attention to what you're doing.

WALSH: CEO Mark Zuckerberg, his wife on Instagram, perhaps hoping to sail on to calmer waters, with this new reported metaverse project and rumored


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: On rewriting the entire thing --

WALSH: Facebook told CNN, yes, we're a business, and we make profit, but the idea that we do so with the expense of people's safety or wellbeing

misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie.

Protesters promised a 13-foot Mark Zuckerberg outside U.K. parliament today, but instead we got this. He's barely the size of me, which raises

really the question -- after months of a persistent opposition drum beat against Facebook, are they becoming the giants in society, or is it still


Still executive ordinary to hear Haugen spell out what she says the platform does regularly.

HAUGEN: The algorithm takes people who have mainstream interests and they push them towards radical interests. You can be someone center left, and

you'll get pushed to radical left. You could be center right, you'll get pushed to radical right. You'll be looking for healthy recipes, you'll get

pushed to anorexia content.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might want to know you're trending on Twitter is this.

HAUGEN: Right now?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So people are listening.

WALSH: Whether that changes anything will depend on the tide here changing itself.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


NOBILO: Nick Paton Walsh there reporting.

Haugen also gave damning testimony about the consequences of Facebook's actions for the Global South. But big questions remain -- do Facebook

actually care about this public pressure?

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan will be debriefing that question ahead on the show tonight.

Now, the hopes for democracy in the troubled African nation of Sudan are hanging by a thread after today's military coup. Sudan's armed forces chief

announced the takeover on television. The military was in a transitional government with civilian leaders but not anymore. It's dissolved that

government, arrested the civilian prime minister and others and nullified part of the constitution.

That instantly ignited thousands of pro-democracy protesters they're in the streets setting fires, marching and demanding civilian leaders be restored.

Sudanese doctors say at least two protesters were shot dead, and at least 80 were wounded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What the military is doing now is a big betrayal to all the citizens on all levels. Now it's important every

individual Sudanese citizen acts and take to the streets to not let any armed vehicle move.


NOBILO: It's been two and a half years since pro-democracy protesters led to the ouster -- protests -- led to the ouster of long time Sudanese

protester Omar al-Bashir. But the promised transition to democracy has been slow in coming. And tensions between the military and civilian officials

have been escalating.

So, many see today's coup as deeply disturbing but frankly not surprising.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is from Sudan and has reported widely from there for us. She explained to me what today coup means to thousands who risked their

lives to create a democracy.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- could have expected when almost three years ago, Sudanese took to the streets. Since

then, the global community has gone through fear for what the protesters were facing, concern, horror, and ultimately a sense that the protesters

had at least managed to force some of what they required on Sudan's military, a representation, civilian rule, and an actual transition to a


On Monday, many of those same Sudanese woke up to find out a lot of what they hoped for and demonstrated for was no long nor place. And so, they

took to the streets once more. For months, there has been a concern that Sudan's military would renege on its agreement to hand over power to the

civilian side of the sovereign council.

Those fears have become facts. Now, it's the international community that is stepping in to try and see what it can do to turn Sudan around from this

precipice and the potential return to dictatorship and military rule.

The U.S. has said it is pausing hundred of millions worth of assistance while the generals continue their hold on power, and in the absence of a

civilian component to Sudan's transitional council. Others around the world have said that they are alarmed and horrified. The U.K. called it a

betrayal of Sudan's people.

Now, it really does appear like the generals, the demonstrator and the global community are all waiting for the other side to blink. Much remains,

much will be carried on whether or not the protesters will remain on the streets -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Our thanks Nima there for her insights.

A new United Nations report says we are wildly off track in the fight against climate change. The World Meteorological Organization's greenhouse

gas bulletin finds the levels of carbon dioxide in the environment are the highest in 3 million years. The last time it was this high was well before

modern humans walked the earth. This report is a clear call to action ahead of the COP26 climate summit which starts on Sunday. But several countries

are likely to abstain, including China, the world's big biggest carbon emitter. There's concern about how much meaningful progress the summit can



BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We need to as many people as possible to agree to go to net zero so they're not producing too much

carbon dioxide by the middle of the century. Now, I think it can be done. It's going to be very, very tough this summit, and I'm very worried because

it might go -- it might go wrong. We might not get the agreements that we need, and it's touch and go.


NOBILO: It's easy to develop a sense of hopelessness about the state of climate change, but we're keen on talking to people who aren't giving up

the fight.

Earlier I spoke with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a long time advocate for smart climate policy.


He tells me the two sticking points he's most concerned about and what impact they'll have if they're not achieved.


GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The first is we need medium term targets for carbon reductions and need them for the 2025 and 2030

period, and there's no sign yet that we're within the limits that the people have set for carbon usage, and that's a big problem.

The second is helping the developing countries achieve carbon emission targets. We talk about $100 billion that was promised. I was actually

involved in the first stage of that in 2009. $100 billion to go to the coastal states and developing countries for mitigation and adaptation to

climate change. We've never reached that figure.

And the announcement today by Alok Sharma, the minister for the Climate Change Conference -- and he's done a pretty good job trying to get people

together, but his announcement is they will not make $100 billion this year. They may make it in 2022, 2023, and that will simply not be good

enough for the poorest countries in the world and not enabled them to make the provision that they need to combat climate change.

So, two big issues of the conference hang in the balance. Will we get targets that we're sure we can make reductions in this decade, and will we

be able the finance properly the action that is taken by the poorest countries to combat climate change? Boris Johnson's success depends on

finding answers to these problems.

NOBILO: I've read one of your descriptions about the lack of success with some of this fundraising being akin to a charity whip around. What is the

reason why leaders, who are obviously well-educated, aware of the threat of climate change, they know what the cost will be, why are they dragging

their feet and not acting with the urgency that's required?

BROWN: Because they have persistently refused to finance the climate change initiatives that are necessary. And we should have had a burden

sharing agreement. So, the richest countries with the biggest emissions historically should have paid a bigger share of this $100 billion.

But we've been unable to secure an agreement of all the different countries, so we are relying on a whip around, and people passing the

begging bowl around and saying, you give money, I give money. And eventually we found that that never adds up to $100 billion. And even this

year, it's not going to be $100 billion, nor next year, not possibly 2022.

So in the next few days, I would urge the prime minster and government working with other countries who have made the commitments to climate

change funding to get around the countries that are not paying enough. I'm afraid that includes America. It includes Australia. It includes Japan. It

includes Canada, it includes Italy.

It includes a number of countries that are capable of paying more into this climate $100 billion tally, and they should be persuaded to do so.


NOBILO: We also spoke extensively to Gordon Brown about the U.K.'s worsening COVID crisis and the debate around mandatory vaccines. And we'll

bring you the full can have conversation later this week.

Let's take a look at the other key stories making an international impact today. For the first time in years Egyptians are not living around the

state of emergency. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced he's ending the clampdown, calling the country on oasis of security. The measures happened

after church bombings in 2017.

Pope Francis says centers set up by Libya to hold African migrants trying to get into Europe are like modern day concentration camps. The pontiff is

urging the international community to help and not return migrants to insecure countries where they face violence.

Rights activists are blasting Israel's decision to label six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations. They say it's an effort to

silence supporters of Palestinian rights, but Israel says the groups secretly fund an organization that's carried out attacks.

Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker will be sent to the United States. The drug lord known as "Otoniel" will be extradited after he was captured

on Saturday. Colombia's president says it is the biggest blow to drug trafficking this century.

Thailand's government is responding to an exclusive CNN investigation about elicit operations that could risk the health of people around the world. We

found that a shadowy company that was in Thailand has been reselling used, filthy medical gloves, some even bloodstained after washing them to make

them appear new. It's cashing in on the demand for protective equipment during the COVID pandemic. Tens of millions of these gloves have entered

the United States and other countries.

Thailand's commerce minister says authorities are deciding how to proceed, saying, if it's in my power, I will handle this.

But, unfortunately, it isn't the only scam of its kind.


You can watch the full report by colleague Scott McLean online at

Still to come tonight, a deep dive into the tangles web of problems confronting Facebook. We'll have to full story, and whether the company

really faces catastrophe after the break.

Plus, a departing royal has her wedding day in Japan. What the muted ceremony says about the couple's reception there, later this hour.


NOBILO: In tonight's debrief, we're diving deeper in our top story. Huge earnings for a company embroiled in crisis. Facebook made just over $29

billion in the last quarter, and that's at a time when the company's faced criticism from every angle with whistle-blowers testifying on company

actions and leaked documents highlighting the platform's desire to put profits above all else.

To put that into perspective, those profits are attached to a staggering 2.9 billion monthly users, giving you a sense of the implications of the

company's actions. Actions which a Facebook whistle-blower says are already having devastating consequences.

In a damning testimony earlier today, former employee Frances Haugen told U.K. lawmakers that Facebook inflamed volatile situations in countries

around the world.


HAUGEN: The core part of why I came forward was I looked at the consequences of choices Facebook was making and I looked at things like the

Global South, and I believe situations like Ethiopia are just part of the opening chapters of a novel that's going to be horrific to read, right? We

have to care about societal harm not just for the Global South, but our own societies, because like I said before, when an oil spill happens, it

doesn't make it harder for us to regulate oil companies.

But right now, Facebook is closing the door for us to be able to act. Like we have a slight window of time to regain people control over AI, we have

to take advantage of this moment.


NOBILO: She says only after tensions in the country like Ethiopia or Myanmar reached boiling point did the company feel they needed to slow

things down on the platform, and to make matters worse, Haugen raised concerns that Facebook's safety systems don't apply in the same way to non-

English speaking countries.

These are a damning slew of allegations against the tech giant, but are Facebook bothered by its critics and where does the company go from here?

Let's bring in my friend and CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan who's covered Facebook for years and knows how it's avoided major consequences so

far for all the misinformation, division it helps procreate.

Donie, great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.


NOBILO: So, today there's obviously been several colliding story for Facebook. What are your key takeaways?

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, there's a lot here. Just to give some context, the reason why people around the world are seeing so many headlines about

Facebook today is there's two consortiums of news organizations, 17 news organizations here in the U.S. and there's also a European consortium, all

who have been given access to now ten of thousands of pages of internal documents that were leaked by Frances Haugen who as you said testified,

appeared before the British parliament today.

I mean, I think one thing that really sticks out. You know, a lot of focus here in the U.S. has been focused on how Facebook was used to help fuel the

Stop the Steal movement which led to the insurrection, the attack on the Capitol here last January. But really what we're seeing is so many

platforms with this platform in non-English speaking countries, and also that the same types of problem are cropping up in different parts of the


For instance, here in the U.S., a Facebook researcher we know through these documents, set up an account designed to look like a 41-year-old

conservative mom living here in North Carolina in the U.S. That page liked a few popular conservative pages, including Fox News and Donald Trump. This

was back in 2019. And within a few weeks, Facebook's algorithms was recommending that account follow -- that that mom follow QAnon pages, even

pages linked to the 3 Percenters militia, which was a militia group involved in the insurrection.

A researcher did a similar project in a similar experiment in India and also found similar results there. So, the platform, no matter where you are

in the world, the algorithms are dragging people into these disinformation echo chambers -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Yeah, Donie, one of the things I found the most chilling when I was listening to her testimony is when she was saying Facebook takes people

with mainstream believes and pushes them into the extreme of either side. I want to ask you about something Facebook's vice president of internal

affair, Nick Clegg, said over the weekend.

He told staff in an internal memo that, quote: Social media turns traditional top-down control of information on its head. In the past,

public discourse was largely curated by established gatekeepers in the media who decided what people could read, see, and digest. Social media has

enabled people to decide for themselves -- posting and sharing content directly.

So, obviously, Donie, he's painting a picture here that social media sites are essential. But do you think that this is a case of them believing their

own hype? They're obviously advocating for transparency, but seeming to ignore that when that runs unchecked that has this ability to divide, to

fuel hate and violence?

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. I mean, I think the former deputy prime minster of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, is doing a very good job at believing his own

hype and believing Facebook's hype, and I think he's also trying to imply in that message, which was an internal memo to staff this weekend, that

news organizations who are covering the company have some sort of agenda, where as -- sort of suggesting that news organizations are upset that

Facebook has taken some of their business or eyeballs or control away.

But, really, I mean, what we can see is from speaking to so many people across this country and my colleagues speaking to so many people around the

world who have been touched and negatively impacted by what's been happening on the platforms. I mean, we all know people either being pulled

down rabbit holes of misinformation, but also, we've seen -- we've seen people pulled towards eating disorder accounts that was a part of hearing a

few weeks ago when it comes to the harm of social media, Instagram specifically, on teenagers.

The problem for the likes of Clegg and Facebook is that so many people when they hear Haugen speak, when they hear this whistle-blower speak, it rings


NOBILO: And, Donie, we've got no time left, but can you say in a sentence, do you think Facebook cares? If it doesn't affect their bottom line, is it

a problem?

O'SULLIVAN: I think that -- I think what we've seen from the documents is there are a lot of people at the company that really do care, they are

trying to sound the alarm. Whether that's making its way up to executives, that's another story.

NOBILO: Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much for joining us today.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you.

NOBILO: Good to see you.

CNN is covering all angles from the papers. One other revelation, Facebook knows it has a human trafficking problem, but the country still hasn't

fixed it, even though they have been aware of it since at least 2018. CNN even located active Instagram accounts claiming to offer domestic workers

for sale. You can go online to for the full story.

Now, still to come on the program, it's the wedding day for a princess, but it's no fairy tale. Why this royal wedding is being held in private when we

come back.



NOBILO: Right now, people in Japan are waking up to a day that would generally come with immense pageantry, a royal wedding day. Instead,

Princess Mako and her commoner fiance are set for a subdued ceremony, more paperwork than spectacle. The muted proceedings are indicative of how the

public is receiving the couple after years of controversy and tabloid frenzy surrounding her husband to be, Kei Komuro.

Similar to Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the two announced stepping away from royal life. Princess Mako is also foregoing many perks

of her imperial heritage and similar to the British royals says she's suffering from mental health issues under a harsh international spotlight.

It's worth pointing out, however, that one thing the princess was never in line for is the Japanese thrown. As a woman, that was always closed to her.

Her role in public life is to support her male relatives. She's instead become the target of derision and disapproval in some quarters. And today's

quiet ceremony could be along the lines of the live they're leaving for in New York, being together now without all of the noise.

Thank you for watching the first show of THE GLOBAL BRIEF. And we are global. Our team and our families span the entire world. You can trust us

to bring you accurate and new perspectives and we'll untangle the geopolitics together. I don't have an agenda but I do want to bring you

journalism that makes a difference.

We'll see you again tomorrow night.

Up next is my old friend in Atlanta, Patrick Snell, because "WORLD SPORT" is back.