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Whistleblower Renewing Scrutiny of Social Media Giant Facebook; Tech Giant Fires Back After Whistleblower's Claims; Top U.S. Diplomat Blinken Seeks Detente with France; Chinese and U.S. Diplomats to Meet in Switzerland. Democrats Search for Compromise on Economic Bill; Brian Laundrie's Sister: I Don't Know Where He Is; Preliminary Report Says Ships Anchor Hooked Pipeline. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London and just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. Facebook should not get a free pass.


SOARES: Facebook on the defense. Mark Zuckerberg responds to claims his network harms children and stokes division, as calls grow for more regulation on the social media giant.

High level talks between the U.S. and China are on the way as tensions arise between the world's two biggest economies.

Plus, the sister of Brian Laundrie makes an impassioned plea to her missing brother.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: A very warm welcome, everyone. It is Wednesday, October 6th. And Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg is breaking his silence after days of negative attacks and calls for regulation. This of course after a whistleblower's damning testified about the social media giant before U.S. Congress.

Now Zuckerberg posted a lengthy statement just hours ago really reassuring his employees and the entire world that his company is committed to keeping users safe.

He said in part: If we didn't care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space -- even ones larger than us? The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful angry content but critics are skeptical.

One Early Facebook Investor told CNN he is not buying Zuckerberg's argument. Take a listen.


ROGER MCNAMEE, EARLY INVESTOR IN FACEBOOK: It follows a classic Facebook formula which it uses rhetorical questions to try to undermine an argument against Facebook, where the rhetorical questions are either deflections or just plain inaccurate. So, for example, one of the core ones, Facebook says we couldn't possibly be doing what the whistleblower accuses us of, because advertisers would not want to see their ads next to inflammatory content. What he allies, the really critical point here is, that some of the most profitable advertisers to Facebook are the very people who are spreading that exact content that's causing all the trouble.


SOARES: An important context there.

Well, the fallout from the testimony is being felt from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill. CNN's Brian Stelter has more on what we're learning from the whistleblower in Congress.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: The only way we can move forward and heal Facebook is we first have to admit the truth.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice over): And the truth according to Frances Haugen is that the social media giant is hiding what it really knows about its impact on its users, including the spread of misinformation.

HAUGEN: Facebook likes to paint that these issues are really complicated. Facebook prioritize that content on the system, the reshares over the impacts to misinformation, hate speech or violence incitement.


STELTER (voice over): Haugen then testifying to the Senate about what the company did and did not do to confront the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2020 election and beyond.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): On 60 Minutes you said that Facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election but turned off those safeguards right after the election and you know that the insurrection occurred January 6th. Do you think that Facebook turned out the safeguards because they weren't costing the company money because it was reducing profit?

HAUGEN: Facebook, changed those safety defaults in the run up to the election because they knew they were dangerous. And because they wanted that growth back, they wanted the acceleration on the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on January 6th and turn them back on, I think that's deeply problematic.

STELTER (voice over): Another big focus of the hearing how Facebook and its other social media apps, including Instagram, negatively impact kids.

HAUGEN: Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It follows them into their bedrooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them, or the first thing they see in the morning is someone being cruel to them.

STELTER (voice over): Sen. Richard Blumenthal calling the revelations jaw-dropping and comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is documented proof that Facebook knows its products can be addictive and toxic to children. And it's not just that they made money, again, it's that they valued their profit more than the pain that they cause to children and their families.

STELTER (voice over): The word addiction coming up over and over again during the testimony.

HAUGEN: It's just like cigarettes. Teenagers don't have good self- regulation. They say explicitly I feel bad when I use Instagram and yet I can't stop. We need to protect the kids.

STELTER (voice over): In a tweet Facebook responding saying Haugen didn't actually work on these issues directly. She was a product manager tackling misinformation and had no direct reports and never attended a decision point meeting. But Haugen brought receipts, research from inside Facebook documenting the damage being done.

HAUGEN: There are organizational problems.

STELTER (voice over): And during all this, where was Mark Zuckerberg? Senators called out his absence and quipped that he was sailing, referring to his recent uploads to Facebook and Instagram.

BLUMENTHAL: Rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.


SOARES: Well, we have quotes ahead from Mark Zuckerberg since that report. Thanks to our Brian Stelter for that.

Well, CNN asked a former Facebook official to weigh in on the Facebook whistleblower and documents leak. Yael Eisenstat, elections integrity's head at the social media giant. She knows a lot about the inner workings of the company, and we're found we're hearing more from those there.


YAEL EISENSTAT, FORMER GLOBAL HEAD OF ELECTIONS INTEGRITY OPS FOR POLITICAL ADS AT FACEBOOK: Are we seeing that in the documents -- especially the documents that were turned over to the S.E.C., which have now been released, I think only today, publicly -- they just demonstrate the internal knowledge of what Facebook does and doesn't know about exactly what is happening on their platform. And it confirms what a lot of researchers, activists, former employees, such as myself have been saying for years.

And so again, it's up to lawmakers now. It's not about whether Facebook is good or bad or does more good than bad. It's about whether or not there are some practices that have harmed democracy, harmed individuals, and potentially broken the law, and what the leadership knew about it. This should absolutely be a huge water shed moment and should really make the public understand that at this point, we can no longer just rely on Facebook's own self-selected data points, and their own talking points, when they like to fix what they have and haven't done.


SOARES: Well, two of the Senators from Tuesday's hearing shared their reactions with CNN shortly after Haugen's testimony. And both really agree that it's time for lawmakers to take a stand against tech giants like Facebook. Take a listen.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): He can say what he wants. Did he, you know, set out to have a product like this. I doubt. It but the truth is he set out to make a ton of money and they've made -- they are now worth over a trillion dollars. And while he's sitting on his sailboat, writing this post, there are kids that are basically getting hooked on their product.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I've been working on this issue for more than a decade, it is a break through moment. It is a tobacco moment for big tech. Because these disclosures are from the tech industry's own files, Facebook's own research and surveys, which show how really, they could have done very good financial success without making Facebook and Instagram so unsafe.


SOARES: Well, another Senator invited one Facebook executive to testify in front of Congress himself. After he tweeted criticism of Haugen, Republican Marsha Blackburn brought up the tweet during the hearing. In it the Facebook exec, says Haugen, did not work on issues around child safety or Instagram and had no direct knowledge of the top -- and the top exec then responded, saying that if Facebook wants to work on those issues, he's welcome to come testify.

Now, U.S. diplomacy is on full display today in Europe, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up the visit to Paris, meant really to ease tensions over the new defense pact, if you remember, with the U.K. and Australia. Well, the agreement to build nuclear powered submarines, if you remember, led Australia to cancel $66 billion deal to these electric subs from France.

And then we have talks between the U.S. and China, now stepping up in Switzerland, they come as Taiwan's defense minister predicted today that China could be capable of launching a full-scale invasion of the island in the next four years.

Let's have more on both the stories. Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong following the U.S. China diplomacy. But first let's go to Melissa Bell who joins us from Paris with the latest on the U.S. Secretary of State visit. Melissa, I suspect as we set up there just before coming to you, this meeting is very much about mending fences with France, given what was heard over the nuclear-powered submarines. How does that work?


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Secretary of State Blinken doing what he does best, which is use words as America's top diplomat, of course, and they happen to be in perfect French on French television last night. Explaining that so much of this row felt Washington had been about miscommunication and that that now needed to be fixed. Have a listen to what he had to say on French TV last night, Isa.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE (through translator): We should have done better in terms of communication. This is what President Biden and President Macron said to each other when they spoke a few weeks ago. But above all, we sometimes tend to take for granted a relationship as important and as deep as the one between France and the United States.


BELL (on camera): Now, even as Blinken was delivering those remarks in his remarkable French, the French president himself was in Slovenia meeting with other European leaders talked about something he had been arguing for, for many years now going back to those remarks made about NATO being brain dead. That it was time for Europe to build up its strategic autonomy, it's strategic defense, its own strategic independence -- as he calls it.

And this because in this increasingly bipolar world, the United States on one hand, China on the other, Europe needs to be united in order to be able to act. So that row that goes back now three weeks, a row that Secretary of State Blinken hopes words and a fresh approach could help fix, actually serves Emmanuel Macron's purpose. It makes his argument -- a case he has been making for a long time -- that it is time for Europe to act together and alone and independently far more forcefully than did -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, pretty impressive French, like you said, Melissa. Do stay with us. I want to go to Kristi. Kristi, also happening today, we have U.S. national -- Secretary advisor Jake Sullivan meeting with a senior Chinese diplomat. What can we expect from this meeting? How much do you think also, Kristi, that the conversation will be center on the incursions by China on Taiwan which we have been covering almost daily on the show now?

KRISTI LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will certainly be raised in discussions later today. Look, a time of high tension and deepening rivalry between U.S. and China, we know that these talks are taking place today between the national security adviser and China's top diplomat taking place in Zurich, Switzerland. This will be the first time where Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi will be meeting face to face since that previous summit that took place in Alaska in March which descended into those scenes of confrontation that were caught on camera.

Now these talks today Zurich coming at a time of high tension especially in regard to Taiwan in recent day. China has been carrying out an unprecedented number of incursions by its air force into the air defense zone of Taiwan. In fact, CNN has counted some 150 such incursions have taken place since October 1st. That's Friday of last week. It was also China's national day holiday.

Earlier today, the defense chief of Taiwan gave a press conference, and he said he believes China will be capable of mounting a, quote, full scale invasion by 2025. The defense chief of Taiwan also adding that Taiwan will prepare itself militarily. On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the issue of Taiwan, he said to reporters in fact, that he had a discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Taiwan issue, listen carefully to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've spoken to Xi about Taiwan. We agree we will abide by the Taiwan agreement, that's what we are, and we made it clear that I don't think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.


STOUT: Now that statement has puzzled a number of China observers this date, not quite understanding what Joe Biden means by saying that they have agreed on a Taiwan agreement. It appears that Joe Biden is referring to the one China policy, the long-standing policy in place where Washington, D.C. officially recognizes Beijing over Taipei. It's also not clear if Joe Biden was reacting to a recent new phone call with the Chinese President, or if he was referring to the 90-minute phone call he had with Xi Jinping in September -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, I'm sure we'll know more, much more a bit later. Kristie Lu Stout for us, and Melissa Bell, thank you, ladies, great to see you both.

Now we'll take you back to Washington. President Biden is ramping up the pitch for his infrastructure and social spending bills. While Democrats are struggling to compromise in Washington, Mr. Biden took his message to Michigan. He insisted that the multi-trillion-dollar bills are investments that competitors, like China, are already making and the U.S. risking falling further behind. Take a listen.


BIDEN: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive, or anything that pits Americans against one another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They're about opportunity versus decay. They are about leading the world or continuing and let the world pass us by, which is literally happening.



SOARES: Well, sources say President Biden is ready to cut the cost of his social safety net package to win over moderate Democrats. CNN's Manu Raju explains.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats on Capitol Hill are still trying to sort through major divisions on Joe Biden's economic package. On one side, the left, that want a massive, multitrillion dollar bill. Something close to $3 trillion. They are willing to come down from $3.5 trillion their initial ask but not too much further.

Then you have people like Joe Manchin, people in the middle who want $1.5 trillion. But are now set to go up but not nearly as high as the moderate -- as the progressives want. Earlier on Tuesday, I asked Joe Manchin, if he's open to going to where Joe Biden is privately proposing anywhere from 1.9 to 2.2 trillion dollars, and he indicated he's not ruling this out.

But there's still so many policy differences that they have to sort through, exactly what to cut, how to deal with issues of means testing, to limit the eligibility of key social programs in this bill, how to deal with climate change. One issue that divides Joe Manchin with the progressives. And it's important because they need all 50 Democrats on board in the Senate. They have just a three-vote margin in the House, the Democrats, do so there's virtually no margin for error.

Now at the same time, Democrats are still struggling about the way forward about avoiding a potential debt default by next week. Because Republicans are refusing to raise the national debt limit. They're not supplying the votes needed. Democrats as a result of looking at a whole wide range of options to try to circumvent Republicans. But it's still unclear exactly how it will be resolved but October 18th, the deadline, the major deadline facing the United States, the potential of a debt default is real. It can be the first ever if the two sides can't reach an agreement, and the Democrats who run Congress can't figure out a way forward in the days ahead.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SOARES: And still to come, Brian Laundrie's sister speaking out urging her brother to turn himself in. Coming up, why her interview is raising questions about what her parents knew about Laundrie's disappearance.

And an ocean pipeline pulled like a bowstring. New details of what cause an ecological disaster in California, officials demand accountability.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Orange County District Attorney's Office is deeply concerned about the wildlife impact that has occurred on our shores and the economic impact to our community. And somebody's going to pay for that.




SOARES: Now, Gabby Petito's family and Brian Laundrie's sister are speaking out. The search for Laundrie is still on after Petito's body was found, if you remember, in Wyoming last month. Meanwhile questions still remain about how much Laundrie's parents knew or know really about his disappearance. CNN's Leyla Santiago picks up the story for you.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been three weeks since Gabby Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie, has been seen. His sister, insisting she has no idea where her brother is.

CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: No, I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): She also expressed a range of emotions, feeling worried about him but also angry.

LAUNDRIE: I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Cassie says she lived in the same home with her brother and Gabby. And never saw him get violent with Petito.

LAUNDRIE: I don't stand for that. I wouldn't let that happen.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): On Monday, Cassie also revealing to protestors staked outside her home that Brian flew home on August 17th, just five days after police pulled over the couple with Petito telling officers Laundrie hit her after she hit him.

The attorney for Laundrie's parents confirming in a statement to CNN that Laundrie flew home the 17th and returned to Utah on august 23rd to rejoin Gabby. And that, quote, Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close the storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip. The couple was last seen together a few days later, August 27th, when they left a Wyoming restaurant together.

By September 1st, Laundrie was back in Florida without Gabby Petito. Cassie says she saw Brian during that August 17th trip but she says the last time she saw her brother was when he went camping with his parents at Fort De Soto Park on September 6th and there was no discussion about Gabby.

LAUNDRIE: We just went for a couple of hours, and we ate dinner and had s'mores around the campfire and left. And there was nothing peculiar about it. There was no feeling of grand good-bye. There was no nothing.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Gabby's parents and step parents speaking out on Dr. Phil's show saying they believe Brian is definitely alive and in hiding.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TV HOST: Do you believe he's hiding somewhere?


MCGRAW: Why do you believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's a coward.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And they believe his parents know more about Laundrie's disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody needs to start talking. I do believe they know a lot more information --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- than they're putting out there.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Last week, the attorney for Laundrie's parents released a statement saying, quote, Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is and were, quote, concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him.

According to the police, Brian Laundrie's parents claim they last saw him on September 14th. They reported him missing three days later. When asked about her parents' involvement, Cassie told ABC --

LAUNDRIE: I don't know if my parents are involved. I think if they are, then they should come clean.

SANTIAGO: And we have reached out to the attorney for Brian Laundrie's parents regarding the comments made in the Dr. Phil interview. We're still awaiting response on that. But I did have an opportunity to speak to Cassie Laundrie -- Brian's sister -- she doesn't want to do any more on camera media interviews but she did clarify that the last time she spoke to her parents was about two weeks ago. They talked about Cassie's children, but she made it very clear that the attorney made it clear that her parents are not to answer any questions regarding Brian.


Leyla Santiago, CNN, North Port, Florida.


SOARES: Now, officials say they're expecting more than a thousand people to assist with cleaning up a large oil leak off southern California. Investigators are still looking into what caused the disaster. Though preliminary reports says a ship's anchor may have hooked the pipeline causing a rupture. The pipeline owner says more than 1200 meters of the pipeline has essentially been pulled like a string. Take a listen.


REBECCA ORE, U.S. COAST GUARD CAPTAIN: What they further located was a 13-inch split in that pipe, on the side of the pipe, that is a likely source of release of oil. What we can say is that from that 13-inch split in that pipeline, there is no visible product that can be observed coming from that line. So, there's no oil coming out of that line from that split in the pipeline.


SOARES: Well, investigators are also looking into the time line of the events, with several agencies receiving reports of oil sheens and odor Friday night. But the pipeline operator did not notify authorities until Saturday morning. Officials say the pipeline was due for another inspection at the end of the month. And residents and local officials are demanding accountability. California's governor says fossil fuels should not be a part of his state's future.


GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: It's time, once and for all, to disabuse ourselves that this has to be part of our future. This is part of our past. And we can moralize and talk about the good old days, we can talk about how important these rigs have been to the prosperity of this country and the middle class but at the end of the day, this is about the stale air of normalcy versus the fresh air of progress.


SOARES: We'll stay on top of the story for you.

Up next right here in the show, the Vatican is reacting to a damning new report, detailing decades of sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church, we're live in Rome with the very latest.

Plus, a White House scandal revisited. Details on Monica Lewinsky's role, in a new TV series about her affair with Bill Clinton. Both of those stories after a short break. You are watching CNN