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FBI Director Warns of China Threat; Tech CEOs Grilled on Capitol Hill. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 11:00   ET



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): And do you know why he quit? Do you know why he quit?

SHOU ZI CHEW, CEO, TIKTOK: We do not allow this. We will investigate such claims.

GRAHAM: But my question is, he quit. I'm sure he had a good job. He gave up a good job because he thinks your platform is being used to help people who want to destroy the Jewish state.

And I'm not saying you want that. Mr. Zuckerberg, I'm not saying you want, as an individual, any of the harms. I am saying that the product you have created, with all the upside, have a dark side.

Mr. Citron, I am tired of talking. I'm tired of having discussions. We all know the answer here. And here's the ultimate answer. Stand behind your product. Go to the American courtroom and defend your practices. Open up the courthouse door.

Until you do that, nothing will change. Until these people can be sued for the damage they're doing, it is all talk. I'm a Republican who believes in free enterprise, but also believe that every American who's been wronged has to have somebody to go to complain. There's no commission to go to that can punish you.

There's not one law on the book cause you oppose everything we do, and you can't be sued.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, we are listening to metaphorical sirens blaring at this moment on two fronts.

China is prepared to wreak havoc on the United States, what the FBI director is seeing that has him sounding this alarm.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And, also, more from what you were hearing from that senator, Lindsey Graham, who said at the beginning of the hearing we have been watching, you have blood on your hands. You have a product that's killing people.

That is what Lindsey Graham and other senators are saying to the faces of the leaders of some of the world's top social media companies right now on Capitol Hill, that hearing happening as we speak.

Let's listen in.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you very much, Chairman Durbin. And thank you, Ranking Member Graham, for those words.

I couldn't agree more. For too long, we have been seeing these social media companies turn a blind eye when kids have joined these platforms in record numbers. They have used algorithms that push harmful content because that content got popular. They provided a venue, maybe not knowingly at first, but for dealers to sell deadly drugs like fentanyl.

Our own head of our Drug Enforcement Administration has said they have basically been captured by the cartels in Mexico and in China. So, I strongly support, first of all, the STOP CSAM bill. I agree with Senator Graham that nothing is going to change unless we open up the courtroom doors.

I think the time for all of this immunity is done, because I think money talks even stronger than we talk up here. Two of the five bills, as noted, are my bills with Senator Cornyn. One has actually passed through the Senate, but is waiting action in the House.

But the other one is the SHIELD Act, and I do support -- appreciate those support of X of that bill. This is about revenge porn. The FBI director testified before this committee there's been over 20 suicides of kids attributed to online revenge porn in just the last year.

But for those parents out there and those families, this is for them about their own child. But it's also about making sure this doesn't happen to other children. I know because I have talked to these parents, parents like Bridgette Norring from Hastings, Minnesota, who is out there today.

Bridgette lost her teenage son after he took a fentanyl-laced pill that he purchased on the Internet. Amy Neville is also here -- platform, got the pill.

Amy Neville is also here. Her son Alexander was only 14 when he died after taking a pill he didn't know it was actually fentanyl. We're starting a law enforcement campaign, One Pill Kills, in Minnesota, going to the schools with the sheriffs and law enforcement.

But the way to stop it is, yes, at the border and at the points of entry. But we know that 30 percent -- some of the people that are getting the fentanyl are getting it off the platforms. Meanwhile, social media platforms generated 11 billion in revenue in 2022 from advertising directed at children and teenagers, including nearly $2 billion in ad profits derived from users age 12 and under.

When a Boeing plane lost a door in mid-flight several weeks ago, nobody questioned the decision to ground a fleet of over 700 planes. So why aren't we taking the same type of decisive action on the danger of these platforms when we know these kids are dying?

[11:05:12] We have bills that have passed through this incredibly diverse committee when it comes to our political views, that have passed through this committee, and they should go to the floor. We should do something finally about liability and then we should turn to some of the other issues that a number of us have worked on when it comes to the charges for App Stores and when it comes to some of the monopoly behavior and the self-preferencing.

But I'm going to stick with this today. Facts, one-third of fentanyl cases investigated over five months had direct ties to social media. That's from the DEA. Facts, between 2012 and 2022, cyber tip line reports of online child sexual exploitation increased from 415,000 to more than 32 million.

And as I noted, at least 20 victims committed suicide in sextortion cases. So, I'm going to start with that with you, Mr. Citron. My bill with Senator Cornyn the SHIELD Act includes a threat provision that would help protection and accountability for those that are threatened by these predators.

Young kids get a picture, send it in, think they got a new girlfriend or a new boyfriend, ruins their life or they think it's going to be ruined, and they kill themselves. So could you tell me why you're not supporting the SHIELD Act?

JASON CITRON, CEO, DISCORD: Senator, we think it's very important that teens have a safe experience on our platforms. I think that the portions that strengthen law enforcement's ability to investigate crimes against children and hold bad actors accountable is incredible.

KLOBUCHAR: So you holding open that you may support it?

CITRON: We very much would like to have conversations with you. We're open to discussing further. We do welcome legislation regulation. This is a very important issue for our country, and we have been prioritizing safety for teens.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. I just -- I'm much more interested in if you support it, because there's been so much talk at these hearings and popcorn throwing and the like.

And I just want to get this stuff done. I'm so tired of this. It's been 28 years, what, since the Internet. We haven't passed any of these bills because everyone's double-talk, double-talk. It's time to actually pass them.

And the reason they haven't passed is because of the power of your companies. So let's be really, really clear about that. So what you say matters. Your words matter.

Mr. Chew, I'm a co-sponsor of Chair Durbin's STOP CSAM Act of 2023, along with Senator Hawley, the lead Republican, I believe, which, among other things, empowers victims by making it easier for them to ask tech companies to remove the material and related imagery from their platforms.

Why would you not support this bill?

CHEW: Senator, we largely support it. I think the spirit of it is very aligned with what we want to do.

There are questions about implementation that I think companies like us and some other groups have, and we look forward to asking those. And, of course, if this legislation is law, we will comply.

KLOBUCHAR: Mr. Spiegel, I know we talked ahead of time. I do appreciate your company's support for the Cooper Davis Act, which will finally -- it's a bill with Senators Shaheen and Marshall which will allow law enforcement to do more when it comes to fentanyl.

I think you know what a problem this is. Devon Norring, teenager from Hastings, I mentioned his mom here, suffered dental pain and migraine. So he bought what he thought was a Percocet over Snap, but instead he bought a counterfeit drug laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl.

As his mom, who's here with us today, said: "All of the hopes and dreams we as parents had for Devon were erased in the blink of an eye, and no mom should have to bury their kid."

Talk about why you support the Cooper Davis Act.


We strongly support the Cooper Davis Act, and we believe it will help DEA go after the cartels and get more dealers off the streets to save more lives.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. Are there others that support that bill? No. OK.

Last, Mr. Zuckerberg, in 2021, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on internal Meta research documents asking, why do we care about tweens? These were internal documents. I'm quoting the documents, and answering its own question by citing Meta internal e-mails: "They are a valuable, but untapped audience."

At a Commerce hearing -- I'm also on that committee -- I asked Meta's head of global safety why children aged 10 to 12 are so valuable to Meta. She responded: "We do not knowingly attempt to recruit people who aren't old enough to use our apps."


Well, when the 42 state attorneys general, Democrat and Republican, brought their case, they said this statement was inaccurate. A few examples, in 2021, she received an e-mail, Ms. Davis, from Instagram's research director saying that Instagram is investing in experiencing targeting young age roughly 10 to 12.

In a February 2021 instant message, one of your employees wrote that Meta is working to recruit Gen Alpha before they reach teenage years. A 2018 e-mail that circulated inside Meta says that you were briefed that children under 13 will be critical for increasing the rate of acquisition when users turn 13. Explain that with what I heard at that testimony at the Commerce

hearing that they weren't being targeted. And I just ask again, as the other witnesses were asked why your company does not support the STOP CSAM Act or the SHIELD Act.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META: Sure, Senator. I'm happy to talk to both of those.

We had discussions internally about whether we should build a kids version of Instagram...

KLOBUCHAR: I remember that.

ZUCKERBERG: ... like the kids versions of YouTube and other services. We haven't actually moved forward with that, and we currently have no plans to do so.

So I can't speak directly to the exact e-mails that you cited, but it sounds to me like they were deliberations around a project that people internally thought was important and we didn't end up moving forward with.


KLOBUCHAR: OK, and the bills, what are you going to say about the two bills?



So, overall, my position the bills is, I agree with the goal of all of them. There are most things that I agree with within them. There are specific things that I would probably do differently. We also have our own legislative proposal for what we think would be most effective in terms of helping the Internet and the various companies give parents control over the experience.

So I'm happy to go into the detail on any one of them, but, ultimately I mean, I think that this is...

KLOBUCHAR: I just -- again, I think these parents will tell you that the stuff hasn't worked to just give parents control. They don't know what to do. It's very, very hard. And that's why we are coming up with other solutions that we think are much more helpful to law enforcement, but also this idea of finally getting something going on liability.

Because I just believe, with all the resources you have, that you actually would be able to do more than you're doing, or these parents wouldn't be sitting behind you right now in this Senate hearing room.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.

ZUCKERBERG: Can I speak to that, or do you want me to come back later?


DURBIN: Please, go ahead.

ZUCKERBERG: I don't think that parents should have to upload an I.D. or prove that they're the parent of a child in every single app that their children use.

I think the right place to do this and a place where it would be actually very easy for it to work is within the App Stores themselves, where my understanding is Apple and Google already -- or at least Apple -- already requires parental consent when a child does a payment with an app.

So it should be pretty trivial to pass a law that requires them to make it so that parents have control any time a child downloads an app and offers consent of that. And the research that we have done shows that the vast majority of parents want that.

And I think that that's the type of legislation, in addition to some of the other ideas that you all have, that would make this a lot easier for parents.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Just to be clear, I remember one mom telling me with all these things she could maybe do that she can't figure out, it's like a faucet overflowing in a sink and she's out there with a mop while her kids are getting...

BERMAN: FBI Director Christopher Wray sounding the alarm over China. Let's listen. That


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: ... threaten American safety and prosperity.

Before I go on, I do want to make very clear that my comments today are not about the Chinese people and certainly not about Chinese Americans, who contribute much to our country and are, frankly, often the victims of Chinese Communist Party aggression themselves.

Rather, when I talk about the threat posed by China, I mean the government of China, in particular led by the CCP. The CCP's dangerous actions, China's multipronged assault on our national and economic security make it the defining threat of our generation.

Now, when I described the CCP as a threat to American safety a moment ago, I meant that quite literally. There has been far too little public focus on the fact that PRC hackers are targeting our critical infrastructure, our water treatment plants, our electrical grid, our oil and natural gas pipelines, our transportation systems.


And the risk that poses to every American requires our attention now. China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities if and when China decides the time has come to strike.

They're not focused just on political and military targets. We can see from where they position themselves across civilian infrastructure that low blows aren't just a possibility in the event of a conflict. Low blows against civilians are part of China's plan.

But the PRC's cyber onslaught goes way beyond prepositioning for future conflict. Today, and literally every day, they're actively attacking our economic security, engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation and our personal and corporate data, nor is cyber the only PRC threat we face.

The PRC cyber threat is made vastly more dangerous by the way they knit cyber into a whole-of-government campaign against us. They recruit human sources to target our businesses, using insiders to steal the same kinds of innovation and data that their hackers are targeting, while also engaging in corporate deception, hiding Beijing's hand in transactions, joint ventures, and investments to do the same.

And they don't just hit our security and economy. They target our freedoms, reaching inside our borders across America to silence, coerce, and threaten some of our citizens and residents.

But I can assure you, the FBI is laser-focused on the threat posed by Beijing. We have got cyber, counterintelligence, criminal, and WMD experts, just to name a few, defending against it. And we're working in partnership, partnership with the private sector, partnership with our allies abroad, and partnership at all levels of the U.S. government, especially the NSA, Cyber Command, CISA, and ONCD, whose leaders I'm honored to be here with today.

In fact, just this morning, we announced an operation where we and our partners identified hundreds of routers that had been taken over by the PRC state-sponsored hacking group known as Volt Typhoon.

The Volt Typhoon malware enabled China to hide, among other things, preoperational reconnaissance and network exploitation against critical infrastructure like our communications, energy, transportation and water sectors, steps China was taking, in other words, to find and prepare to destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous.

And let's be clear, cyber threats to our critical infrastructure represent real-world threats to our physical safety. So working with our partners, the FBI ran a court-authorized on-network operation to shut down Volt Typhoon and the access it enabled.

This operation was an important step, but there's a whole lot more to do, and we need your help to do it. To quantify what we're up against, the PRC has a bigger hacking program than that of every major nation combined. In fact, in fact, if you took every single one of the FBI's cyber agents and intelligence analysts and focused them exclusively on the China threat, China's hackers would still outnumber FBI cyber personnel by at least 50 to one.

So, as we sit here while important budget discussions are under way, I will note that this is a time to be keeping ahead of the threat by investing in our capabilities, rather than cutting them. We need to ensure that we sustain and build on the gains that we have made that have enabled us to take actions like the Volt Typhoon operation I just mentioned.

The budgets that emerge from discussions under way now will dictate what kind of resources we have ready in 2027, a year that, as this committee knows all too well, the CCP has circled on its calendar, and that year will be on us before you know it.

As I have described, the PRC is already today putting their pieces in place. I do not want those watching today to think we can't protect ourselves, but I do want the American people to know that we cannot afford to sleep on this danger. As a government and a society, we have got to remain vigilant and actively defend against the threat that Beijing poses.


Otherwise, China has shown it will make us pay.

Thank you, and look forward to today's discussion.

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): Thank you, sir.

Director Coker, you're recognized for your opening statement.


BERMAN: All right, that was FBI Director Christopher Wray with a more stark and stern warning than I think I have ever heard from him...

BOLDUAN: I agree.

BERMAN: ... on China and the threat posed by China and specifically Chinese hackers.

He says that China is actively attacking our economic security now. And he warned with even greater warnings of what they are preparing to do. They are plotting what he called low blows. Low blows are part of China's plan, attacks on all kinds of infrastructure, water treatment plants, electrical grids, Internet routers, communications.

And in terms of how outmatched he says the United States currently is right now...

BOLDUAN: He just said, if you took every single one of the FBI's cyber agents and intelligence analysts, focused them exclusively on the threat from China, China's hackers would still outnumber FBI cyber personnel by at least 50 to 1.

BERMAN: That gives you a sense of the warning being delivered at this moment. BOLDUAN: Yes.

We will be right back after a quick break.



BOLDUAN: Back to the Senate right now.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, he's now leading the questioning, where what has been clear so far is that the senators on a bipartisan basis seem to have no patience for what they're seeing and the answers, or lack thereof, that they're getting from these tech CEOs sitting before them.

Let's listen in.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): ... population level, there is no proof about harm for mental health.

Well, it may not be at the population level, but I'm looking at a room full of hundreds of parents who have lost children. And our challenge is to take the data and to make good decisions about protecting families and children from harm.

So let me ask about what your companies do or don't report. And I'm going to particularly focus on your content policies around self-harm and suicide. And I'm just going to ask a series of yes-or-no questions. And what I'm getting at is, do you disclose enough?

Mr. Zuckerberg, from your policy's prohibiting content about suicide or self-harm, do you report an estimate of the total amount of content, not a percentage of the overall, not a prevalence number, but the total amount of content on your platform that violates this policy? And do you report the total number of views that self-harm or suicide-promoting content that violates this policy gets on your platform?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes, Senator. We pioneered quarterly reporting on our community standards enforcement across all these different categories of harmful content.

We focus on prevalence, which you mentioned, because what we're focused on is, what percent of the content that we take down are our systems proactively identifying?

COONS: So, Mr. Zuckerberg, I'm going to interrupt you, and you're very talented. I have very little time left. I'm trying to get an answer to a question, not as a percentage of the total, because, remember, it's a huge number, so the percentage is small.

But do you report the actual amount of content and the amount of views self-harm content received?

ZUCKERBERG: No, I believe we focus on prevalence. COONS: Correct. You don't.

Ms. Yaccarino, yes or no, you reported or you don't?

LINDA YACCARINO, CEO, X CORP: Senator, as a reminder, we have less than 1 percent of our users that are between the ages of 13 and 17.


COONS: Do you report the absolute number of how many images and how...


YACCARINO: We report the number of posts and accounts that we have taken down.

In 2023...


YACCARINO: ... we have taken over almost a million posts down that -- in regards to mental health and self-harm.

COONS: Mr. Chew, do you disclose the number of appearances of these types of content and how many are viewed before they're taken down?

CHEW: Senator, we disclose the number we take down based on each category of violation and how many of that were taken down proactively before it was reported.

COONS: Mr. Spiegel?

SPIEGEL: Yes, Senator, we do disclose.

COONS: Mr. Citron?

CITRON: Yes, we do.

COONS: So, I have got three more questions I'd love to walk through if I had unlimited time. I will submit them for the record.

The larger point is that platforms need to hand over more content about how the algorithms work, what the content does, and what the consequences are,not at the aggregate, not at the population level, but the actual numbers of cases, so we can understand the content.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I have a bipartisan bill, the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, co-sponsored by Senators Cornyn, Klobuchar, Blumenthal on this committee and Senator Cassidy and others. It's in front of the Commerce Committee, not this committee.

But it would set reasonable standards for disclosure and transparency to make sure that we're doing our jobs based on data. Yes, there's a lot of emotion in this field, understandably.