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Republicans Block Raising of Debt Ceiling; Oil Spill; Facebook Outage. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's a brand-new hour. Thanks for staying with us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

If you're wondering why your Facebook or Instagram page is not loading, you're not alone. The social media giant is experiencing major outages across multiple platforms today, and they still are not disclosing what's going on.

BLACKWELL: Here's what we know, though, that this is happening on a day that is really bad for Facebook.

We heard from a whistle-blower last night and she is accusing Facebook of intentionally allowing hateful content and misinformation to spread on the platform in order to make more money.

Now, more on that in a moment.

First, let's bring in Donie O'Sullivan and focus on these outages.

Do we know anything about what's causing them and potentially how long it could last?


Yes, I mean, this is highly unusual. We are now going into hour four of this outage across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, all of course, owned by Facebook. Here is what Facebook is saying in a statement.

This is from a few hours ago. And we haven't heard from them since: "We are aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We're working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. And we apologize for any inconvenience."

And you will notice that statement is posted on Twitter because Facebook does not have access -- can't post on its own platforms now, seemingly. And I will just point out, particularly outside of the United States, WhatsApp is -- this is not just about people posting pictures and videos to Facebook and Instagram.

But outside of the U.S. and in parts of South America and parts of Europe, WhatsApp is an absolutely critical communications tool. That is how people communicate and text. It can often be a cheaper form of staying in touch than texting in a lot of parts of the world.

So for a lot of people, this will certainly be a challenge in terms of cutting them off of a communication way that they would normally use. I will also just mention that Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, his platform is up and active at the moment. He doesn't seem to have much sympathy for his billionaire counterpart Mark Zuckerberg right now.

He is using -- Jack Dorsey is using Twitter to sort of poke fun at Facebook, even actually telling people to download a WhatsApp alternative messaging app, which is called Signal.

CAMEROTA: Well, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at this moment, I think.


CAMEROTA: Donie O'Sullivan, thank you very much. Come back to us as soon as you have any developments.

OK, more now on the revelations from that former Facebook employee. Her name is Frances Haugen and she is accusing Facebook of hiding internal research that proves its platforms are used to spread hate violence and misinformation.

BLACKWELL: Haugen has also filed at least eight complaints with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. And now she's revealing tens of thousands of documents that says that she says shows Facebook intentionally tweaked its algorithm to allow this toxic content to spread in order to make more money.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: There were conflicts of interests between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.

The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.


BLACKWELL: With us now, CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa. She's a former FBI special agent. And Mara Schiavocampo is the host of the "Run Tell This" podcast.

Good to have both of you with us.

And, Asha, let me start with you because you have made the comparison -- and we have heard it over the last couple of days, if not years, actually -- big tech is the new big tobacco. But in your latest write -- you go through four, five, six points of how they compare. Just explain a few of them for those who have not read your latest piece.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Victor, I think there are several parallels between Facebook and big tobacco.

For one thing, they create a highly addictive product. They actually design their platform so that it gives you a dopamine hit, the same way you get from doing cocaine or gambling, to keep you on it.


They try to recruit more users, and especially targeting children to get hooked on the platform. And they deliberately lie to the public about what they know about the harms that their product causes. And so we don't really think of it in the same way.

I will also add that there are a lot of secondary effects of what they cause, in addition to harm to the user themselves, like, for example, for teenage girls. We see research about that. We have seen, with COVID-19, misinformation, it spills over into the public as well.

So I think that there are a lot of parallels here. And it could open the possibility for creative ways of looking at holding Facebook accountable the way that we did with big tobacco.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, I think that everything Asha said is so important, Mara. It's hazardous to our health. It's hazardous to our democracy's health. But I do just want to play that portion from last night where they talked about teenage girls, because they have the actual data that they hadn't released, but they knew internally about how much it's hurting them.

So listen to this.


QUESTION: One study says 13.5 percent of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse; 17 percent of teen girls say Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

HAUGEN: And what's super tragic is, Facebook's own research says, as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. And it actually makes them use the app more.

And so they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more. Facebook's own research says it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers, that it harms teenagers. It is that is distinctly worse than other forms of social media.


CAMEROTA: I mean, it's hazardous. MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, HOST, "RUN TELL THIS": Yes, so we're starting to

have this conversation now about how it's affecting us as individuals and how it's affecting us as societies.

So what you heard right there is an example of how it's affecting individuals, especially young women at such a key developmental age, but we're also seeing how it's affecting societies. And the problem with these algorithms -- and this is the algorithms on all social media platforms -- is that people believe they are looking out of a window, and they're seeing an accurate representation of the world.

But what they're actually doing is looking in the mirror, and they're seeing a reflection, they're being shown a reflection of their own beliefs and their own thoughts, except now it's validated and it's reconfirmed. And that, I believe, is the core of all the polarization that we're seeing.

And this is a lot more significant than, say, your crazy aunt showing up at Thanksgiving without her vaccine theories, right? There are a lot of people who would argue that these algorithms and these social media platforms have played a significant role in everything from genocide to inciting an insurrection in our country.

So this is a key, pivotal moment for these platforms. The issue here is enforcement. Facebook already has regulations in place about misinformation and hate speech, but are they properly enforcing it? And if not, why not? This is a trillion-dollar company. Why can't they put the resources towards getting this right?

BLACKWELL: Had a congresswoman on at the top of the last hour who's been using the hashtag #investigatefb, investigate Facebook. But we have seen examples over years now of members of Congress who appear not to really have a full understanding, a grasp of not just Facebook, but social media companies.

Let's look at two examples here over the last couple of years.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Will you commit to ending Finsta?

ANTIGONE DAVIS, HEAD OF GLOBAL SAFETY, FACEBOOK: Senator, again, let me explain.

We don't actually -- we don't actually do Finsta. What Finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they want -- may want to have more privacy.

BLUMENTHAL: Finsta is one of your products or services. We're not talking about Google or Apple. It's Facebook, correct?

DAVIS: Finsta is slang for a type of account.

FMR. SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): Well, how do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?



BLACKWELL: And these are senior members of the committee. At least Orrin Hatch was for a while, until he retired.

But I wonder, does Congress have a grasp of this to even consider if there should be further regulations?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, it's a very big problem when you don't have an understanding of the technology, because then what you're doing is you're relying on the leaders of the technology to inform you of what's right and what needs to be done.

So it's a little bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. And we have seen a lot of that. We have seen Facebook and these other companies come and say, no, we will take care of this problem, we want to take care of it, we will regulate it ourselves.

What was so key about what we heard last night on "60 Minutes" is this woman saying, no, they not only know what the problem is, they are amplifying it for the purpose of profit. And a key point to note is that she said this change in the algorithm went into place in 2018.

Facebook revenue has reportedly tripled since 2018. And she says that's the motive here. They're putting profits over people.


CAMEROTA: Asha, what is the answer?

RANGAPPA: Well, I think that when we talk about regulation, we always get to content, right? Like, can they take it down? Can we make them take it down? What about the First Amendment?

But I think that there's a lot of other ways that Facebook could be regulated that could incentivize them to behave in other ways. There can be disclosure requirements, for example, about their data, what they know, their algorithms, how they're prioritizing information.

They can be required to create, say, pauses in the rolling feed or create civic messages that tell user -- kind of interrupt the cognitive process of a user or even create warning labels the same way that we did for tobacco.

And, finally, there could be creative ways to simply tax them, to tax their advertising revenue to get into the revenue model that they're using that is harmful to democracy and basically hit them in the pocketbook, which just seems to be what motivates them.

BLACKWELL: All right, Asha Rangappa and Mara Schiavocampo, thank you both.


BLACKWELL: So, we are awaiting an update from Southern California officials on the massive oil spill there.

We, of course, will bring that to you live as soon as it happens.

Cleanup and response efforts are happening right now after 126,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean from a breach in an offshore pipeline.

CAMEROTA: This happened about five miles off of Huntington Beach, and parts of that beach and other beaches are now closed.

This massive spill threatens the nearby wetlands, home to dozens of species of birds and other wildlife.

CNN's Camila Bernal is in Huntington Beach for us

So, Camila, divers are inspecting the pipeline, as we understand, but they still haven't exactly found the source of the leak?


And that's what's so concerning for so many people here who live here and who depend basically on the beach. And the thing is that the damage is done. Even though they're working on it, they're trying to clean up, they're inspecting all of this, the damage is done.

And when you say 126,000 gallons, the problem is that only about 3,000 gallons have been recovered so far. So this is not going to be an easy cleanup. And it's not going to be a quick one. That's why many of the residents here are so concerned. And it's not just the wildlife. It's the wildlife. It's the economical aspects, so many aspects of this.

CAMEROTA: We apologize. There's a press conference happening right now in Huntington Beach with officials involved in this cleanup.

Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will now turn it over to Captain Ore.


And thank you for the opportunity to provide an update on the Unified Command's activities and the spill response efforts to date.

I just want to open by saying thank you to the citizens of Orange County. Thank you to the public safety officials and public safety professionals and first responders. The amazing outpouring of support and resources for us to be able to assess what's going on with this oil spill and to be able to bring resources to bear to really attack the oil is incredible.

And I can assure you that there is very strong unity of effort and information flow as we move through this together in what is a complex, dynamic and evolving situation.

What we know since we talked yesterday, we continue to do overflight assessments of the coastline. We know that there is oil off the coastline. Many of you have seen it showing up on the beaches in the forms of small quantities. We call them tar balls or patties. This is a sticky oil that gets caught in the sand.

And that is starting to come ashore. And we're continually assessing that. We know that there is oil ranging from Huntington Beach and now we know as far down as Laguna, and likely moving, continuing to move in a southerly direction, based on the wind and the weather and the currents.

We continue to increase our staffing at our incident command post, as well as our personnel in the field. We have more than doubled the level of effort just since yesterday and those numbers will go up. This includes both the on-water recovery of oil that's floating. So that's oil on the open ocean.

And we have a fleet of boats out there that are using containment boom to isolate that oil and collect it in what we call skimmers. And then, onshore, we have shoreline assessment teams. We have four teams out today all the way from Huntington Beach down to Laguna.

And what they're doing is, they're walking the beaches, they're looking at sensitive areas. They're checking. We have protective boom. This is an orange plastic boom that creates a barrier and allows us to isolate and contain oil.


They are checking on those, those booming strategies. They're making sure they're holding, and we're deploying additional resources where we need them, so a lot of effort out on those features today. And that is just the beginning of what is a sustained and increasing effort to really be able to tackle the soil, to pick up what we're seeing on the beaches.

I know these beaches are incredibly important, not just to the residents and citizens of Southern California, but to much of the country. I live just a few miles up the road. I use these beaches practically every single day. And I know it's a very tough situation to see the impacts.

I assure you that, on behalf of the United States Coast Guard, the Unified Command, our responsible party and state of California, we are doing everything we possibly can to address this situation.

Thank you.

LT. CHRISTIAN CORBO, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE: Good afternoon. My name is Christian Corbo. I'm a patrol lieutenant with California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Our Office of Spill Prevention and Response is actively engaged with the Unified Command with Coast Guard and the responsible party to manage this release and discharge of oil.

My office is a public trustee for managing all wildlife and environmentally sensitive sites. At this time, we have pre-assigned and deployed boom at seven locally sensitive sites. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Lower Newport Reserve, Talbert Marsh are some of the examples.

At the time, we have four scout teams currently assessing the footprint of our release along the shores of the beaches, and they report back to the Unified Command every day. With those reports, we plan for the following days, how many personnel we need on the beach, what type of recovery methods we will use, what type of strategies we will deploy.

As far as Fish and Wildlife, we have issued what we call a fisheries closure from Sunset Beach all the way down to Dana Point. The closure extends out six miles and a swathe of about 20 miles long. The closure basically prevents and prohibits the take of any fish within those waters.

We will have actively patrol -- patrol boats from Fish and Wildlife patrolling those waters, advising recreational and commercial fishermen of those closures.

In addition, we have collected four seabirds within our care network. Three of those birds are currently being cared for by professionals. One, unfortunately, a pelican, sustained wing injuries, which, unfortunately, we had to humanely euthanize at the site.

At this time, we appreciate your concern. We have those same concerns. We live in the community. We're part of your community, and we hate to see this happen on our shores. We can assure you we're doing everything we can to this ever-evolving situation.

It takes quite a bit of patience from the public and us to adjust our strategies as we get new information. So, we appreciate your patience as well.

At this time, I will pass it over to the responsible parties.

BLACKWELL: All right, we have been listening there to an official from the California Fish and Wildlife, also U.S. Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore explaining the work that's been done and how much is left to do.

Let's go back to CNN's Camila Bernal, who is in Huntington Beach.

And still a lot to do. You were describing before we got to the latest from the news conference 3,000 gallons have come in, 126,000 spilled. What did you learn from that presser?

BERNAL: Yes, look, I think, Victor, that the biggest takeaway here is that this is not going to be an easy cleanup, and that this is going to take a long time.

They're working on the cleanup out at shore. Of course, they're trying to collect that oil that's floating around in the sea, and then they're doing those efforts as well, but in the sand, in the beach. They're trying to collect that sticky oil. And that's what could be dangerous for the humans and for people who are around here at the beach.

So I think the big takeaway here is that this is going to be an effort that is going to take a long time, it is not going to be easy, and it's why so many residents and lawmakers in this area are asking why and how did this happen.

And so, of course, all of it coming together as we see the beaches closed all the way from here and moving south. That's the other concern, that the oil continues to move South, so even as far down as Laguna Beach and possibly even further. So it's spreading. And so that's why it's going to take such a long time, Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Camila Bernal, thank you for being on scene there for us.

OK, now back to Washington, President Biden calling out Republicans for opposing efforts to raise the debt ceiling.


He says GOP lawmakers are -- quote -- "playing Russian roulette" with the U.S. economy.


BLACKWELL: Today, President Biden accused the GOP of playing Russian roulette with the economy.

Now, the president is urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling ahead of the October 18 deadline to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt for the first time ever.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, Democrats continue to negotiate the size and scope of that social safety net spending package.


CNN's Kaitlan Collins is covering all the developments for us.

So, Kaitlan, it seemed as though President Biden's strategy was to meet with Democrats and talk through all this with them. Does he have a different strategy this week?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, when it comes to his infrastructure package, and actually getting that reconciliation bill passed, that is something that they are still far from an agreement on.

And the White House has just told reporters that the president is going to have a virtual meeting with those more progressive members today. That's, of course, to talk about one thing that they have been stuck on, which is the price tag for that reconciliation package.

And when I say reconciliation package, I mean that is the bill that they are going to pass, if they pass it, with only Democrats voting for it in the Senate right now. And, of course, that is the one that they want to go big on. They want

it to have a quite a price tag. It won't be the $3.5 trillion that we have been talking about. That's something that really all sides are now acknowledging, but it's a number they are still trying to get to agreement on.

But while they're doing that, they also have a more immediate problem that is facing them. And that is that, two weeks from today, the U.S. is going to breach its debt limit. That is, of course, the nation's borrowing limit. And there is a concern, because they have not come to an agreement between Democrats and Republicans on what to do about that right now.

And what President Biden was saying today is that Republicans need to vote with Democrats to raise it, as Democrats voted with Republicans to do so under the Trump administration. He was saying they need to do so now. And he was trying to convey the effects of what is going to happen if that doesn't happen in two weeks earlier today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let me be really clear. This is really important to know. Raising the debt limit is about paying off our old debts. It has nothing to do with any new spending being considered. It has nothing to do with my plan for infrastructure are building back better, zero, zero, both of which, I might add, are paid for.


COLLINS: So, Alisyn and Victor, the president is trying to up the public pressure on Republicans to vote to raise the debt limit.

Mitch McConnell has said, as he repeated in a letter to the president today, that no Republicans are going to vote to do so, instead saying the Democrats need to use that process I was talking about earlier reconciliation to do so, even though that is something that Democratic leaders have said is complicated. It is going to be a cumbersome process. It is not one that they want to pursue.

And so when Biden was asked if he could guarantee that two weeks from today, the U.S. will still be able to meet its financial obligations when it comes to Social Security checks, when it comes to paying members of the military, all of these things that economists have been warning about will happen if they do breach the debt limit in two weeks from today, he said, no, he can't guarantee that, and it's up to Mitch McConnell.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan Collins, thank you for the update.

Let's talk more about everything that's happening on Capitol Hill with CNN political analyst Rachael Bade. She's also the co-author of Politico's Playbook.

Rachel, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: So, you will remember, on Friday, everyone was on tenterhooks as the president made that trip to Capitol Hill to try to see who he could cajole to all get together between the Democrats.

Here is how the president described what he walked away with.


BIDEN: Been able close the deal with 99 percent of my party.

Two. Two people, that's still under way. I don't think there's been a president who's been able to close deals that has been a position where he has only 50 votes in the Senate and a bare majority in the House. It's a process.

QUESTION: It sounds like you're putting the blame squarely on two U.S. senators for your inability to close that deal, Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin. Am I hearing correctly? Is that who the blame lies with?

BIDEN: Look, I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I don't think it takes too much to read between the lines there, Rachael. So where does that leave him?

BADE: I mean, clearly, the president is trying to pressure on these two senators they have been trying to get in line for a while on this larger social spending package.

But the reality is, it's not just two. It's actually a lot more than that. He also has House Democrats, moderate House, Democrats who agree with Sinema and Manchin in terms of the size of this package, what they want to see in it.

And the issue here is that a lot of those moderate Democrats are, frankly, furious right now about what happened last week. They were promised a vote on infrastructure. They didn't get it. And so that sort of complicates negotiating this week.

I do think it is interesting that the -- President Biden is going to be meeting virtually with progressives, when, actually, the moderates are the ones who are pretty angry right now. It sounds like the White House is going to set up a meeting between him and moderates coming up soon.

But, look, it's more than two. And he's got his work cut out for him.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's talk about those moderates, because it seems as if the chair of the Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Jayapal, acknowledges that $3.5 trillion will not be the number. She won't say what number south of that will be.

But is there an indication at all that Senator Manchin is going to go beyond the $1.5 trillion, the number that he pointed out or made clear to Senator Schumer weeks ago?