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Senators Grill Top Execs Over Social Media Impact On Teens; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Discusses About Social Media Policies for Children Safety; FBI Director Delivers Stark Warning On Chinese Hackers; White House Blasts House Republicans For "Playing Politics" As Speaker Johnson Vows To Block Potential Bipartisan Border Deal. Aired 3:00-3:30p ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 15:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: In the hot seat: major tech CEOs facing off with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to explain what their platforms are doing and are not doing to keep kids safe. Critics say it's not enough. We're going to break down what's at stake for families and how tech leaders are responding.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a dire warning: FBI Director Christopher Wray sounding the alarm about Chinese hackers and the threat they pose to American infrastructure. His call to action as he testifies before Congress.

And in Gaza, a hospital unable to properly treat patients has turned into a shelter instead. There is little, if any, drinking water and people are so hungry they have resorted to eating grass. We'll have the latest on the crisis in Gaza.

Those stories and more ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: It is the top of the hour. Thank you so much for sharing your afternoon with us.

We begin with a high stakes and emotional hearing on Capitol Hill, the world's biggest tech leaders facing a barrage of questions from lawmakers about the potential harm that their platforms can cause on young people. We've heard from the CEOs of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram; TikTok; Snapchat; Discord and X, formerly known as Twitter, sitting right behind them in the hearing room where family members of children who were harmed after engaging with social media.

We want to go now live to CNN's Clare Duffy. She's been tracking this hearing.

Clare, some testy moments. How did the CEOs respond?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Right. So, Boris, the CEOs were largely defensive here, as you would expect. They touted some of their existing youth safety measures and policies. But we did get some rare admissions from these CEOs, including from Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who actually turned around to address the families that were in this hearing room. Let's listen to what he said.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): There's families of victims here today. Have you apologized to the victims?


HAWLEY: Would you like to do so now?


HAWLEY: They're here. You're on national television. Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your product? Show him the pictures. Would you like to apologize for what you've done to these good people?

ZUCKERBERG: I'm sorry for everything that you've all (inaudible) to go through. It's terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered. And this is why we've invested so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.


DUFFY: So really a striking moment there from Zuckerberg. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, also apologized to families whose children have died after buying drugs on that platform. And it's clear at this point that the apologies, the existing measures, are not enough for lawmakers. Lawmakers pushed these CEOs to commit to endorsing a number of potential proposed legislation, including The Kids Online Safety Act, the STOP CSAM Act: Child Sexual Assault Material Act.

And I think the question for me coming out of this hearing is we heard so many different proposed legislation, proposed options of how to hold these companies accountable that I'm wondering whether these lawmakers are going to be able to coalesce around one plan of action that they can really move forward and make progress on, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we're going to ask that of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, along with a parent who was in that room in just moments.

Clare Duffy, thanks so much for breaking that down for us. Brianna?

KEILAR: As lawmakers are grilling these CEOs, let's talk about why these issues are so critical, why we're paying so much attention to this. In a Pew Research Center report from December, you had one-third of teens surveyed saying that they use social media apps almost constantly and the number of teens saying that they use the Internet almost constantly, that's 46 percent. That number has doubled in just eight years.

So let's take a look at what they're using: 93 percent said they're on YouTube, compared to 63 percent who say they're using TikTok, 60 percent using Snapchat, 59 percent of them on Instagram. A smaller share, 33 percent of them are on Facebook.

And if you look at what girls prefer here, they are more likely to use Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, while boys are more likely than girls to be on YouTube, X, of course, formerly known as Twitter and Reddit.

And the concerns about social media were made clear in Facebook's own research that was revealed by the Wall Street Journal back in 2021.


An article that explained how Facebook's own researchers said, "We make body issues worse for one in three teen girls," while also adding here that 6 percent of American users traced a desire to kill themselves to Instagram. Court documents in a separate lawsuit allege that CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly thwarted teen well-being initiatives, something he was asked about today.

And then just last month, New Mexico's AG filed a lawsuit accusing Meta Platforms of creating a breeding ground for child predators. Now, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, appears to be trying to make some amends here. They're rolling out safety features this month for parents and saying that it would hide search results related to self-harm or eating disorders.

Here's an example of that when you type in some of these keywords into Meta's search function. What is clear is that too many teens are spending what experts say is too much time on apps and that sometimes these apps are not doing enough to keep them safe very clearly. So that leads us to who all has been testifying at this hearing today and questions about whether Congress will actually do anything to rein in social media.

And since we did obviously touch on that issue of suicide, I do want to mention that if you or a loved one are struggling, you can call the mental health crisis line at 988, such an important resource. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's critical that folks know that those resources are out there.

Emotions obviously ran high during today's hearing as lawmakers pressed the tech executives on several proposed bills. Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, appeared visibly upset as she recounted stories of parents whose children were impacted by these platforms, listen.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Sen. Klobuchar joins us now live and she is joined by

Bridgette Norring. Her son, Devin, died of an accidental overdose after buying a pill, laced with fentanyl, on Snapchat.

Thank you both for being with us.

Bridgette, I see you're holding a photograph of Devin. We mentioned previously how Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel apologized to families whose kids have died after purchasing drugs on that platform. He said, "I'm so sorry that we've not been able to prevent these tragedies." What is your reaction to what you saw today and to that apology?

BRIDGETTE NORRING, SON DIED FROM ACCIDENTAL FENTANYL OVERDOSE: I don't feel like his apology was - I feel it was very fake. It was - it lacked any heart behind it. I think he could have did better in his apology to us.

SANCHEZ: What was going through your mind during the hearing as you were hearing from these tech CEOs directly about these issues?

NORRING: It's very frustrating to sit and listen to them, and just knowing that senators mentioned that some of these policies they put in place just days before coming to the hearing today, so that in itself is worrisome. It tells me that they're not taking this serious and I just feel like for them, our children are just casualties, just pawns in their game to make money.

SANCHEZ: Senator, there were a number of pieces of legislation mentioned today. You specifically brought up the Cooper Davis Act. It aims to crack down on drug trafficking on social media. There are opponents who argue that the bill infringes on privacy rights. I am curious, though, out of all these pieces of legislation, which do you think is most urgently needed to be passed and which one is most likely to pass?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, Bridgette's son, he just went online to get what he thought was a Percocet because he had dental pain and migraines. And then it got laced with fentanyl. He didn't even know he was taking fentanyl, as so many other of these kids don't know.

And the thought that these cartels in China or Mexico are harnessing these platforms and selling their goods for profit and kids are dying, I think is enough of an answer of why we need change. And so you ask what bill.

Well, these bills as a group, which deal with 30 percent of people that are getting fentanyl is off - online or over 20 kids have committed suicide because of basically being bribed with pictures of themselves because they thought they were looking for a girlfriend or boyfriend and they put their picture online and then they get bribed and they think their life is over.


That's my bill with Sen. Cornyn, the SHIELD Act, or Sen. Durbin's bill, which actually says, hey, you got to have some accountability here and liability if you're putting child porn on your site and you don't take it down.

So as a group, they are simply about accountability. They've all gotten through the Judiciary Committee. We'd like to see them go as a group to the floor. So I don't see it as either one or the other. I think it is all about accountability on these platforms. And I think what you saw there, and I feel much more hopeful than I have for years on this, because those families are standing tall behind those CEOs, that image showing the pictures, because these are all bipartisan bills, strongly bipartisan, with conservatives and liberals and people in between working together.

And because the questions were not just throwing popcorn, the questions were about specific bills and pleading with them, get something done here and don't just say, oh, we're taking new measures that haven't been working.

SANCHEZ: Senator, I did hear you tell one CEO that the reason their company wasn't held accountable, the reason that Congress hasn't passed stronger regulation before is because of the power that these companies have. What have they been doing in your eyes to keep lawmakers from passing more restrictions on social media?

KLOBUCHAR: Bridgette, on behalf of her son, she doesn't have a full- time lobbyist around every corner. She doesn't have, like, a couple lobbyists for every member of Congress. So I figure our job is to stand up for her. And the problem is, every which way you turn, they have said, we can't do that, we can't do that, we can't do that.

We don't like the states are doing it. It is time to put strong federal protections in place. 28 years without any changes. These are no longer little companies starting in a garage. In the case of many of them, they're trillion-dollar companies. And, of course, we like using their products, but that doesn't mean you don't have rules in place.

When a door falls off of a Boeing jet, they ground 700 jets to make sure they're safe and everyone says, yes, that's the right thing to do. Well, how about here? When she loses her son, when we have kids dying, and no one steps in and says, we need to put some clear rules in place to stop this, these companies should be able to get this stuff off of their platforms and the best way to do it is with money. And that means this, they're using money to lobby members of Congress. Well, like with any other industry, people can sue, and then they change their ways, right?

They're protected. They have immunity from those lawsuits that got put in place when they were a nascent industry just starting out in the garage and that has got to change. So, for instance, X, formerly Twitter, supported my bill, the SHIELD bill, on revenge porn, as well as Sen. Durbin's bill on getting this stuff off of the platforms. And then Snapchat actually supported the bill for giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after this fentanyl online.

So there were, to me, there are cracks in the armor. Things are starting to change. And that, we just simply need to get these once we get through with the budget. I know Sen. Schumer is devoted to getting a grouping of these bills to the floor and we have to - we've got to get the budget done and then let's go and do that.

SANCHEZ: Bridgette, despite that hope that the Senator is sharing, one of the recurring themes from tech companies, historically, touches on the question of personal and parental responsibility. They argue that it's up to parents to look after what their kids are consuming. But just given the amount of apps and content that's out there, do you think it's possible for a parent to keep up with everything that their child comes across on the Internet?

NORRING: It's not. And in my case, Devin was an adult, and we've heard that excuse from Snapchat multiple times, should have been monitoring. But how do you monitor an app? I could say, give me your phone. I could tell that to my 17-year-old right now, today. Let me see your Snapchat. There's not going to be anything there because the design of the product, those messages are gone. So how do I safeguard that? How do I protect him from that?

So, it - no, it needs to be completely overhauled. And so parents, when their children are harmed, we do have, we can hold big tech accountable. We can hold these people accountable for our children's harms.

KLOBUCHAR: One mom told me it was like this water was filling up a sink and it's overflowing because her kids, she can't keep, they go on one app, then the other app and she's out there with a mop trying to clean it up and she can't do it. So it's time to hold these companies accountable and put in real measures so that happens, so that it's on them and not on every mom.


SANCHEZ: Bridgette, one last question. As you're telling Devin's story, I wonder what you want his legacy to be, how you want the world to remember him.

NORRING: Devin was a smart, intelligent 19-year-old young man with his whole life ahead of him and one mistake cost him his whole life. Truly miss him. I can't bring him back. But all I can do is stand here alongside Sen. Klobuchar and fight for the future kids who may be on these apps and put in danger of becoming a victim like my son.

SANCHEZ: Bridgette Norring, Sen. Klobuchar, thank you both for joining us.

NORRING: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Bridgette, I just want to say, personally, thank you so much for bringing us that story. It's very moving and your desire to put forward this cause is inspiring. Thanks so much.

NORRING: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Stay with CNN. We'll be right back in just a few minutes.



KEILAR: A stark warning today from FBI Director Christopher Wray that hackers backed by the Chinese government are targeting American infrastructure and getting ready to wreak havoc inside the United States.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: 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.


KEILAR: At a House hearing on Capitol Hill today, Wray and several U.S. security experts and officials talked about how China has been working to slowly and quietly infiltrate American systems.

And joining me now is my colleague, Jim Sciutto, CNN Chief National Security Analyst. He's also the author of the upcoming book, "The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War," which we're really looking forward to.


KEILAR: So, Jim, you've been covering this issue, obviously, for a very long time in quite a lot of depth. What stood out to you about today's hearing besides kind of what - it was quite an apocalyptic painting of what was done?

SCIUTTO: No question. It's the extent of this, right? Because this has been happening for some time. China planting, in effect, cyber weapons inside critical U.S. infrastructure systems, water treatment, the power grid, et cetera. Russia as well.

And by the way, we should note, the U.S. does similar things with its adversaries with the intention of turning those on in the event of a broader conflict to, well, shut down your enemy. Turn down, turn the lights off in Washington, that kind of thing. So the fact is, this goes in both directions.

But what struck me today was just the scale of it, was Wray saying, it is worse than I've ever seen it, it's getting worse and by the way, they're throwing more resources in this direction, so we really have to get a handle.

KEILAR: It may surprise people, the lengths that the Chinese government ...


KEILAR: ... has gone to, right, in order to further its reach inside of infrastructure.

SCIUTTO: They have enormous resources. And I hear this, and reporting out my book, there's a lot of detail about this in there, in that this happens where you plant these various tools inside your adversaries' critical systems so that you can, in effect, spread the pain in the event of a conflict. Not just disable, say, the military, or blind the military, but also inflict pain on the civilian population.

I mean, imagine if you were able to shut down 80 percent of the U.S. power grid, that capability is possible, and possibly in China's hands, what effect that would have on you and me or the people watching right now.

China devotes tens of times as many people to this as we do. It's a country of more than a billion people, so they have those resources. This is the number that Christopher Wray gave today, which really stood out to me. Have a listen.


WRAY: To quantify what we're up against, the PRC has a bigger hacking program than that of every major nation combined. 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 1.


SCIUTTO: Fifty to 1, and the thing is, when you speak, I spoke to the CIA Director Bill Burns about this or the MI6 Chief Richard Moore, they say, listen, we're not going to catch up to them in numbers. There's no way we're going to meet them man to man or woman to woman in this space, so we just have to be smarter about how we and the United States and our allies fight this battle.

KEILAR: What can the U.S. do? I mean, are they able to pull off similar things, a sort of mutually assured destruction?

SCIUTTO: Well, yes, there is some MAD to this, mutually assured destruction, kind of a parallel to nuclear war, right? The sad fact that you've got these powerful weapons, but so do I, right? So there is something of that, but that's not enough, right? Because you don't know, no one knows what their red lines are. They might use a little bit of it, but not all of it and when and how and how quickly and how we would respond, so better defense is definitely necessary.

I mean, when you hear people talk about our power grid just being old and behind, which we know it is, that makes it a lot easier to shut this down. And just, there is talk that China has the ability to take down something like 80 percent of our electrical transformers.


There's this other side to it, which is China also happens to make most of the world's transformers. So if that were to happen, resupply would be the other thing that would be an issue.

So it's a multi-layered problem, and that's what stands out to me, certainly from the testimony today, but when I've been speaking to folks all over the world about the U.S. relationship with China and also with Russia, which does similar things.

KEILAR: Yes, it was very illuminating.


KEILAR: Eye-popping today.


KEILAR: Jim, thank you so much for taking us through that.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

KEILAR: Boris?

SANCHEZ: The White House is blasting House Republicans for vowing to block the Senate's potential bipartisan immigration deal. Here's White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: House Republicans have a choice to make. They can keep playing politics or they can work in a bipartisan way to secure the border. One Republican member from Texas even said, why would they do anything to help President Biden. This is about helping the American people.


SANCHEZ: And as lawmakers continue to wrangle over a deal in Washington, people across the country are preparing to take matters into their own hands. The so-called "Take Our Border Back" convoy plans to hold a series of rallies.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Eagle Pass, Texas for us.

Rosa, I just want to point out to our viewers, the convoy right now is only a few dozen people, right?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. It's a very small group that is still making their way here to Eagle Pass. But, Boris, I want to show you around because I want to show you what this standoff between Texas and the Biden administration looks like on the ground. What you see behind me, the trees, that's Mexico. Then you see the Rio Grande, which is the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico and this is the start of the razor wire that was deployed by the state of Texas. This is actually the south end portion of that takeover zone by Texas.

You can see some Humvees that are here behind me. But here's what's extraordinary. Normally, you would see Border Patrol right by the river. We're going to pan around and you'll see where Border Patrol actually is.

Border Patrol is outside of this takeover zone and I'm going to show you ...

SANCHEZ: Yes, unfortunately, it looks like we're having some issues there with Rosa's signal. We will keep an eye on that situation, though.

But coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, they have no access to drinking water, and some folks are so hungry they're resorting to eating grass. We're going to be joined by the head of Doctors Without Borders for the latest on the situation in Gaza.

And there's new evidence out of Michigan where the mother of a high school gunman is on trial for her alleged role in the crime. A sheriff's detective says he found Jennifer Crumbley's statements after the shooting odd. We're going to show you what she said next.