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Facebook Hit with Outage; Laura Edelson is Interviewed about Facebook; Facebook Stock Drops; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is Interviewed about the January 6th Committee; Dr. Carlos del Rio is Interviewed about Vaccines. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Nice to have you in D.C. with me.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill. Nice to be with you in D.C.

And it's a busy morning in D.C. this morning.


HILL: Facebook is back online and just in time for a crucial hearing on Capitol Hill. Next hour, the newly revealed Facebook whistleblower will testify about her explosive allegations that the social media company knowingly pushes disinformation on its site to make a profit.

Former product manager Frances Haugen accusing Facebook of knowing that its platform is being used to spread hate, encourage violence and that it's harmful to children.

SCIUTTO: It's a remarkable view from the inside. In her opening remarks, obtained by CNN, Haugen will say, quote, the choices being made by Facebook's leadership are a huge problem for children, for public safety, for democracy. That is why I came forward. And let's be clear, it doesn't have to be this way. We are here today because of deliberate choices Facebook has made.

Haugen also accuses Instagram, of course owned by Facebook, of failing to crack down on accounts that are damaging to teens' mental health.

And a new CNN analysis found proof of the app promoting extreme dieting and eating disorders to young girls.

We're going to have much more on that in a moment.

First, let's get to CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan on Capitol Hill.

Donie, you've been covering this a long time. Let's begin with something that happened in the background yesterday, that Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, they all went down, they're back up this morning, but they all went down after really unusual, widespread outages. The timing, uncanny to say the least. Do we have any reason to believe this was deliberate? Do we know who's responsible?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Jim, at the moment, the short answer is, we don't know. Facebook did put out a statement late last night essential saying that it was a glitch. That it was a technical error and basically Facebook's computers, at their data centers, stopped talking to each other and the reason why it took so long to get back online is this glitch actually affected the internal systems as well.

We have sought some clarity from Facebook in terms of if they're investigating, say, was this maybe a rogue employee given the timing of this, but we haven't heard back yet. But certainly, at the moment, there's -- they are not saying that it's an attack or anything nefarious of that kind. They appear to be suggesting that it's a glitch. And also they are importantly pointing out that no user data was compromised.

But just final point on yesterday's outage, I mean, a lot of what we're going to hear on Capitol Hill today is Facebook's power. And I think yesterday was a great reminder of that. Facebook, one company, controls three of the world's biggest platforms, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. And when there's a problem with one, there's a problem with all of them.


HILL: Yes, that's for sure. And that power, too, I think is what so many people have really latched on to, Donie, especially as we heard from the whistleblower on Sunday.

We have obtained, as we said, a copy of her opening statement. What more are we expecting to hear from her this morning?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, this is going to be pretty powerful testimony today, I think. Take a look at part of her opening statement here where she says that she believes she did the right thing and necessary for the common good, but that she knows Facebook has infinite resources, which it could use to destroy me. I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth, almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook.

And we're going to learn a lot more about that today when it comes to childhood harms, whether it comes to Facebook's handling of elections and the democratic process. And it's all going to unfold in the coming hours.

SCIUTTO: So, Senator Richard Blumenthal, of course the chairman of the committee who will be handling the hearings today, his office carried out what is a pretty remarkable but also concerning experiment. It set up a Facebook account claiming to be a 13-year-old girl, and then bombarded with content promoting self-harm, eating disorders.

You did something similar. Tell us what you found.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. We spent a lot of time this weekend speaking to Blumenthal's staff. I mean did a very, very simple experiment, but so powerful and so effective in really showing the issue here.

Set up an account as a 13-year-old -- as a young teenager, 13-year-old girl, followed a few accounts about dieting, followed a few eating disorders accounts and almost immediately Instagram's algorithm kept pushing, kept suggesting more and more and more pro-eating disordering accounts that were glorifying eating disorders.

When CNN actually took some of these accounts to Instagram, they took them down. They said, these accounts actually break our policies on promoting self-harm and eating disorders.

But, again, not only were -- not only did Instagram not catch these accounts, they were actively pushing them and promoting them to you -- to this young user.

I wanted to just play this one piece of sound, if we have time, from an interview on NEW DAY this morning with a father of a person who suffered because of this.

Have a listen.


IAN RUSSELL, FATHER OF TEEN WHO TOOK HER OWN LIFE: What we discovered after her death was that she had been seeing material on various platforms, but Instagram was one of them, that promoted -- well, just being miserable.


First of all, she would have seen material that made her feel miserable and hopeless and encourage that sort of depression and anxiety. And then, even more worryingly, she saw material that suggested suicide might be the only way out.


O'SULLIVAN: And that is unfortunately too relatable to too many families across America and around the world. Problems, mental health and social media.


HILL: Yes, absolutely.

Donie, thank you.

I want to bring in now Laura Edelson, who's a researcher on misinformation. She's co-director of the Cybersecurity for Democracy in New York University. And in August, Facebook shut down Laura's account. The company said it was because of her research. There was some back and forth on that. Laura said it was because of the research. Facebook, of course, denied that.

Laura, it's so good to have you with us. And I actually want to pick up where Donie left off because it's so disturbing. It's -- it's hard enough for young girls and, in many cases, for young boys to not feel inadequate.


HILL: To not feel that everything they're doing is wrong and doesn't measure up.

But when you have a platform that is directing them to sites that, in the words of this father, promoted being miserable, that showed that maybe suicide was the only way out, and his daughter took her own life, to say that's damning is an understatement.

And yet, as we learn from the whistleblower, a lot of this was known inside the company she claims, but nothing was done about it. Does that match up with what you found?

LAURA EDELSON, CO-DIRECTOR OF CYBERSECURITY FOR DEMOCRACY, NYU: Unfortunately, yes. I think one of the most horrible things about all of this is that, you know, what I'm finding is that the company's own internal research is absolutely consistent with what I and other researchers have been telling them for years is the case, that harmful, problematic content is spreading rampantly on their systems. And they don't seem to be willing to do anything about it because doing something about it would cut into their profits.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's a part of the story that needs to be highlighted. This is Facebook's own findings, right, on this -- on this threat. And they made a deliberate effort to hide those findings, which led Haugen, in effect, to come forward with it.

Facebook's response will be, listen, it's not -- I've heard this multiple times from Facebook executives -- it's not in our interest for folks to have negative experiences online. That their -- you know, their business, their bottom line is only served by positive experiences.

Is that true?

EDELSON: You know, that would have been a lot easier to believe three weeks ago before all this internal research came out. But now we're finding that that's just not the case.

I think one of the thing that I found the most damning about reading this internal research is that their internal researchers experimented with mitigations, things to reduce this harm. But doing, you know, enabling those mitigations would have cut into the company's bottom line and so they chose not to do it. I think that's, you know, one of the things that I find unconscionable.


HILL: Yes, that they have the information, they're not acting on it.

So in her opening statement, we know, too, that Haugen is going to say, based on her experience at other media companies, Google, Pinterest, Yelp, what she found is that there were deliberate choices made by Facebook. She says something more needs to be done. These are not tweaks, she says, to privacy laws, not changes to Section 230, but actual regulation.

I'm curious, from your point of view, based on your research, what do you see in terms of changes that would actually be effective at Facebook?

EDELSON: Yes. So, we are calling for a comprehensive federal regulation. I think as a first step, so much more transparency is needed because at this point how can the public have any confidence in anything that Facebook says. So we just need a lot more transparency of public content to researchers. We, frankly, probably need a mechanism for user safety audits so that, again, the public can begin to rebuild some trust.

But I think the single most important thing is, we need some kind of federal regulation to block Facebook from putting its own profits ahead of user safety. That's what has to stop.


Listen, it's a rare, bipartisan issue. You have Democratic and Republican lawmakers taking aim here. The question is, can that work its way through the current legislative stalemates on Capitol Hill, something like that.

Laura Edelson, thanks so much for the work you're doing.

EDELSON: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, the troubling headlines just part of a brutal Monday for Facebook. The company's stock plunged after the news from the whistleblower. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, lost billions in the sell-off. Of course, he has many billions more.

HILL: There is that.


HILL: CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joining us now.

So, Christine, really a rough day for Facebook overall. How's the company's financial health right now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, you know, I mean profit doubled in the second quarter. You are using its site and its services for free and you are the product that it sells, right? So our social networks are incredibly lucrative for Facebook.

I mean the stock down about 5 percent yesterday. That's a big move, yes. But this year it's still up 19 percent.

[09:10:02] Since it went public in 2012 it's up almost 800 percent. So the numbers show us that while we're questioning the democratic values that could be eroded, the personal safety of young people, whether algorithms are tweaked to actually, you know, foment descent, that conflict makes money for Facebook, all of these things we're talking about recently, all of that has been very profitable for this company.

I think there's a new phase we're entering here. For a long time -- for many years there have been those who have said keep your hands off big tech. It's so important. It's been such a big driver of the overall stock market. Washington doesn't know how to regulate big tech. I think the new mood is not will you regulate Facebook but how will you regulate Facebook?

As for Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, bad day for him, he lost $6 billion on the day. That's a lot of money and that was enough for him to fall down in the rankings of a Bloomberg billionaires index. He is number five now, I think, behind Bill Gates. You can see. So he lost $6 billion, about $121 billion.


ROMANS: He has been a very, very rich man, making money off of us, the product. We are the product. Never forget it.

SCIUTTO: Yes, not exactly a financial tragedy there. Still $121 billion.


SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks very much for following this for us.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, former Vice President Mike Pence suggests it's the media that is blowing the January 6th Capitol insurrection out of proportion, even though that same crowd of rioters chanted they wanted to hang him. I'm going to be joined by a Republican member of the House committee investigating the insurrection as more subpoena deadlines draw near.

HILL: Also new this morning, AstraZeneca just asked the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization for a new antibody treatment to fight COVID-19.

And Brian Laundrie's sister speaking to reporters. What she's now sharing about the last time she spoke with her parents and what she says happened at the campground her family visited.



SCIUTTO: Update on January 6th investigation. CNN has learned that at least two of the 11 people so far subpoenaed last week by the House Select Committee investigating January 6th have cooperated, turned over all relevant communications. Those subpoenas went to organizers of the so-called Stop the Steal Rally, which you'll remember just preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol January 6th. Four Trump White House insiders, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Adviser Steve Bannon, have until Thursday to respond to document requests to them from the committee.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He is a member of the January 6th Select Committee.

Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, the key here really is getting to folks who were particularly close to the president on that day. Among them, Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon. If they refuse to cooperate with these subpoenas, are you confident the committee has the ability to compel them?

KINZINGER: Oh, Jim, that coup attempt insurrection, that was a whole nine months ago, we should just move on.

No, look, I -- we are going to do everything in our power to get him to testify. I mean, there is civil, there is criminal referrals that can happen if they refuse. You know, refusing a subpoena from Congress is a crime.

And, now, I want to be clear about something. I mean, we have a right to get to the bottom of this. We aren't out to try to hang this around anybody's neck. We want answers.

Now, the problem is, when you start seeing people resist, and people obfuscate, you have to look at that and go, why are they doing that if they have nothing to hide? We have people coming in and talking to us voluntarily. There's a lot of information we already have and know. We're going to get to the bottom of it. We want to do it quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, thoroughly because even -- regardless of whether, you know, me or our generation gets the truth, we will. You know, our kids' generations deserve to read an accurate accounting in the history books.

SCIUTTO: I'm guessing that your tongue and cheek reference at the start of your answer was referring to Mike Pence's comments on Fox News last night blaming the media for focusing on one day in January, blah, blah, blah.

I just wonder, though, that is not an outlier position in the current Republican Party. In your view, has revisionism on January 6th, these short nine months later, taking over the GOP.

KINZINGER: Yes, it happened -- and it didn't even happen nine months later. A couple weeks later Kevin McCarthy went and kissed the ring at Mar-a-Lago and literally -- literally -- well, not literally, I guess, figuratively literally took the paddles from the ambulance, put them on Donald Trump and resurrected him politically with that one single visit. And then all of a sudden it became, maybe it was Antifa. I mean that

night Matt Gaetz went out and said we know it's Antifa. Like, what?


KINZINGER: And so that all started. And now, when you have the vice president -- and here's the thing that I think is so disappointing to traditional Republicans like me is Mike Pence, I disagree with, you know, that he was complacent during the four years of Trump, but he was -- he had an actually pretty heroic moment. And if you read the coup memo that outlined a coup, I mean that's literally what it did, that's what Donald Trump was pushing.


KINZINGER: Mike Pence resisted that. He could have gone with it, created a constitutional crisis. He's not going to win back the Trump people. He's not going to convince us he was ever anti-Trump. He could have stood up and said I was with the president until I wasn't, and now I'm not, and I don't understand this pivot.

SCIUTTO: On Pence, though, we have learned more since January 6th, including that he at least made a call to former Vice President Dan Quayle to seek his counsel on perhaps whether he had some power to overturn in that crucial moment.


I wonder, is the narrative of Mike Pence the hero that day, are we learning that there's less to it?

KINZINGER: Yes, I'm not sure. So, I -- you know, I don't know -- I don't know if he had called Dan Quayle to see, can I do this or how do I resist doing this? I've read the account in the book.

You know, the reality is he did his constitutional duty, so I don't think that's heroic. I think having stood in the pressure of Donald Trump is somewhat heroic in these days, unfortunately.

But I think what -- I think the big thing for him to give him credit for on that day is the recognition that he could have done something different and thrown us into a complete constitutional crisis.

Now, what I don't understand is his life was in danger, the number three in line for the presidency was in danger and four, all within striking distance of a mob that, you know, killed a police officer, beat one to within an inch of his life. So would (ph) do it to a politician. And now all of a sudden he's revising that day and saying he and Trump are buddies again. I don't get this toxic hold that Trump has over people. He never had it over me. Maybe I just missed out, but I'm glad I did.

SCIUTTO: "The Washington Post" reports that Trump considered announcing his candidacy for 2024 after the Afghan withdraw. He was convinced not to at that point, but there are some close to him who believe he is close to doing just that. And I wonder, by the way, it's possible he could win. It's possible.

Do you believe a -- the U.S. democratic system as we know it would survive? Not just the run, but a second Trump presidency?

KINZINGER: I think our system's broken. And I'm not, you know, sitting here to say that democracy's bad, the republic is bad. I think what's failed us is the two-party system that has kowtowed to the extremes. We have our freedom club in our party. Now you have, no offense, the Progressive Caucus and the left that is looking a gift horse in the mouth with a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and doing what I saw the Freedom Club do five years ago, by the way. And the vast majority of Americans in the middle aren't on Twitter yelling. They're saying, I feel so disaffected right now.

And we're plugged into this matrix that says, if you don't like Joe Biden's presidency -- I don't like his policies, by the way -- your alternative is it must be Donald Trump. Oh, hell no. There is -- there is a vast array of options outside of those two, particularly outside of Donald Trump. But we're plugged into this belief that you only have one option.

We've got to break -- we've got to break that belief and change things. Donald Trump very well may run again in 2024. I would have thought six months ago he wouldn't. But I think he sees Joe Biden stumbling, thinks he can win, and he may win.

SCIUTTO: Just briefly, because you mentioned the bipartisan infrastructure plan, you publicly supported that. Given last week's, you know, failure to get it through, you know, infighting in the Democratic Party, do you still support the bipartisan infrastructure plan? Will you vote for it?

KINZINGER: Yes, I'll vote for it. We're -- where it get dangerous is if they somehow tie the two together with this $3.5 trillion that, you know, Mr. Clyburn was on here an hour earlier, he goes, I didn't care how much it is, you know, kind of to paraphrase him. Like, that's a problem. And so I intend to vote for it. We need bipartisan infrastructure in this country. You know, let's take the win. That's how we used to legislate, we take the win and then the controversial stuff you fight hard to get through.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. We'll see if they meet this next deadline.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thanks so much for joining us.

KINZINGER: Anytime, Jim.

HILL: Up next, CNN has just learned that Johnson & Johnson has asked the FDA to authorize booster shots for its coronavirus vaccine.

Plus, we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Looks like a slight bounce, trying to reclaim some losses from yesterday. Inflation and debt ceiling concerns, though, still top of mind for investors. And behind a big chunk of the recent declines, losses for some of the America's biggest tech firms. Facebook's stock a little bit higher this morning after having its worst day of the year.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, AstraZeneca is asking the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization for its antibody therapy meant to prevent symptomatic COVID-19. This as Johnson & Johnson seeking EUA for a booster dose of its one shot vaccine.

HILL: Joining us now to talk through this, Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

Always good to see you, Dr. del Rio.

Let's start with this J&J request for an EUA for a booster shot to its one dose vaccine. There's been a lot of talk about what about -- what about the J&J folks? Do you see any reason that it would not be granted, that Emergency Use Authorization for a booster?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: No, I think it will be, Erica. I think really the data, it suggests that, you know, one dose may not be sufficient. In fact, this could have easily been a two-dose vaccine. And the reality is the question then is -- is it a booster? Are we completing a series exactly? It's unfortunate because, you know, it's nice to have a one-dose vaccine against this disease, right, but it may be that we were asking for too much.


SCIUTTO: OK. I want to look at some new data here that relates specifically to the Pfizer vaccine, which is, of course, the one that most -- the vast majority of Americans who have been vaccinated have gotten.