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Siva Vaidhyanathan is Interviewed about Facebook; Democrats Propose Billionaires' Tax; Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) is Interviewed about Taxes; Election Officials Targeted by Trump. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 09:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: It's the comments section that is in many ways the biggest issue and Facebook can't control it.

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA STUDIES AND DIRECTOR OF CENTER FOR MEDIA AND CITIZENSHIP, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Yes, look, one thing we all have to understand about Facebook, clicks, shares, likes and comments matter. They are the currency of Facebook. The more reaction a post gets, in any of those forms, the more Facebook's computers interpret the subject or the post as hot, interesting, lively, engaging.

And, remember, everything about Facebook is designed to maximize engagement, to keep us coming back, just like a casino, like a fruit machine in a casino, right, everything is designed to get us to want to keep interacting so we don't go off and watch YouTube or we don't go off and watch CNN, right? It's designed intentionally to do that.

Now, it wasn't designed for, like, public health emergencies or to spread vaccine misinformation or hate speech or any of that. It was designed to keep you engaging with your friends and family about babies and puppies and all the good things in life.

The problem is humans are more complex than that, right? And we interact in all these different ways. Comments, though, are something that, you know, a lot of the news coverage has ignored for a long time. We tend to focus on the big post, the video or the image or the text or the Facebook group that is putting something out and we don't realize that there is always conversation going on beneath these posts. And, remember, you can't turn off comments on Facebook.

HILL: Right.

VAIDHYANATHAN: I'd actually probably use Facebook more if I could turn off comments on particular posts.

HILL: And that's where some of the most heated conversations --

VAIDHYANATHAN: Because Facebook doesn't want us to stop interacting.

HILL: Right.


HILL: That's where you see some of the most heated conversations, some of the most heated rhetoric. And the fact that they are not policing that in the same way that they said in those memos from just a few months ago, that they're not demoting and removing those fast enough.

There's also the part of this where Facebook is in what, I think 100 some odd countries, or supports about 100 languages, but they -- they really can only monitor in about 70 languages, right? So still not enough. And really if it's not in English, you know, there's not a big chance that they're going after it.

VAIDHYANATHAN: Absolutely. Look, there are --

HILL: Do you see that changing?


Look, there are nearly 3 billion humans who use Facebook regularly. That's 3 billion people who have this affect of having Facebook, manage their social lives, manage their information lives, manage how they understand the world, not dominate, not dictate, but definitely manage and influence. And that's something we've never seen in human history. No company has ever reached 3 billion humans like this so pervasively, so intimately, so consistently.

There are only 7.6 billion humans on earth, 3 billion of us are on Facebook, right? In, as you said, 110 languages. What that means is, not only has Facebook basically ignored significant parts of the world, like India, the world's largest democracy, where content moderation is basically non-existent because they have 20 different languages and Facebook is really only good in one or two of them. You know, big languages like Bengali, which is something like the 10th or 12th biggest language in the world has almost no content moderation going on there.

What we learned from that is, number one, Facebook's not doing as well as it should or hopes to. But the other thing -- and this may be more important -- it might be impossible to clean up Facebook. It might be just mathematically impossible to have Facebook be a nice service that enhances life more than it undermines the good things in life. And that's what really worries me.

HILL: Yes.

VAIDHYANATHAN: If we pay attention to the scale and to the design of Facebook, and we step back from the, is this post up or is this post up or does this post lie or does this post tell the truth, and we look at the whole thing and its effect on our media ecosystem, on our societies, on our democracies, it's a terrifying site.

HILL: It is. And I hate to leave it there, but we have to because we're out of time. But would like to talk to you more about what can be done if anything so this may be not quite so terrifying moving forward.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.


HILL: And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: This morning, Democrats are revealing new details on how they plan to pay for President Biden's sweeping economic agenda. Senate Democrats just unveiled a plan to tax billionaires potentially raising hundreds of billions of dollars by taxing assets every year on investments like stocks and bonds.

Erica, one word we cannot mention, though, is the word "deadline" because it's clearly lost all meaning in Washington.

HILL: No. No. There is no such thing anymore as a deadline.


HILL: That's the one thing we do know about this.

Let's get straight to CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.

So, Lauren, these latest moves come after Senate Democrats, of course, proposed a new corporate minimum tax. This is for companies that would report over a billion dollars in profits. Can you walk us through the ins and outs of these two strategies and what they would actually fund?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats had to come up with alternative ways to pay for their social safety net bill after Senator Kyrsten Sinema, that moderate from the state of Arizona, said she was opposed to some very simple, straight increases in the corporate tax hike, as well as the individual tax rate across the country.

So, what Democrats are looking at doing right now is these two alternative proposals. One of them that you mentioned is this new tax on billionaires.


And it's very different than how you currently would tax individuals who make a lot of money because you would tax assets even if they don't sell items like stocks or bonds. That would be taxed every single year for people who have a billion dollars or people who made more than $100 million in a three-year period.

The expectations is it would affect roughly between 700 and 800 people in the United States. So just a small segment of the population.

But one of the other challenges of this is that it's never has been done before. And there are a lot of Democrats and a lot of education to do within the Democratic caucus on how exactly this proposal would work. Members have a lot of questions. Not to mention that a lot of House Democrats have issues with the fact that they already marked up tax provisions in the House Ways and Means Committee that they were pretty satisfied with. This, obviously, a new proposal.

The other proposal that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden rolled out yesterday was this corporate minimum tax. That would be instead of an increase in the corporate tax rate. If those two things sound similar, they are working very differently.

Essentially what the corporate minimum tax would do is it would tax companies that report a billion dollars in profits to shareholders at a minimum tax of 15 percent. That, of course, would cover companies who they argue are not paying their fair share right now.

But, again, this is another complicated proposal that Democrats are going to have to educate their members on. And there are still some questions about whether or not that billionaires tax is going to be acceptable to someone like Senator Joe Manchin. We know the corporate minimum tax has satisfied both Sinema and Manchin. But the billionaire's tax, it's rally an open question at this point.

Erica and Jim.

SCIUTTO: So many open questions. We'll see when they close them.

Lauren Fox on The Hill, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss is someone involved in all this, Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): Oh, thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, so the president leaves for Europe tomorrow. G-20, and then COP26, which deals with climate issues. He was hoping to have something in hand. Will Democrats send him to Europe empty handed?

POCAN: Well, you know, I think the most important thing is we get this right. As you mentioned, there's a few new revenue streams we're looking at right now. What people back home are asking for is what is in the bill for them, how they're going to benefit from it, not necessarily what day we're going to pass it. I know it would be great to have done so the president can talk about this and I still think there's a possibility. But the most important part is we get the provisions right. And we're down to just a few final issues. So, I am optimistic.

SCIUTTO: But some big ones. And, by the way, we didn't set those deadlines. The Democratic leadership has set these repeated deadlines. Are the deadlines -- is the latest deadline not going to happen?

POCAN: After almost nine years in Congress, I realize the only way Congress operates is when we have a deadline it seems like. SCIUTTO: Yes.

POCAN: So I understand why people put dates out there to get people talking. But, again, at the end of the day, you know, having these huge transformational ideas, like not paying more than 7 percent of your income for child care, the child tax credit that lifts half the child out of poverty in this country, a tax cut for 40 million American families, I mean those are the things that really matter to people back home and across the country. And those are the things that we want to get right.

SCIUTTO: OK. To get it right, though, you've got to work out disagreements within your own party. One of those disagreement is on this question, whether a framework agreement on the budget bill is enough to secure votes for the infrastructure, the bipartisan infrastructure. The progressive chair of the Democrats, she says framework is not enough. Pelosi says it is. You're a leader in the Progressive Caucus as well. Is a framework enough for you?

POCAN: There are dozens of us in the Progressive Caucus who have said all along we want to have both bills go through at the same time. Originally we said we wanted it to pass through the Senate. I think if the president can give us assurances as he's working with senators, that it will pass the Senate. We can do both bills at the same time in the House. And that's what dozens of us are committed to.

But, you know, sending to the president to a climate change conference with only the infrastructure bill when almost all the money around climate change is in the Build Back Better Act doesn't make sense. But having an announcement that we have an agreement on both would be something we could celebrate and send the president overseas to.

So I'm hoping that we can still get that agreement knowing that the Senate will pass both bills and we can pass both on the House floor.

SCIUTTO: OK. You have said that the president can provide progressives, skeptical progressives, with assurances they need on the spending bill. Basically put his seal of approval on a framework agreement. You say you would trust that. It does not seem that your colleagues would trust that. Are they, in effect, saying we don't believe the president's word, if he were to make that commitment?

POCAN: No, I -- what we're saying, Jim, and we just had a meeting last night with about 30 of us, that when the president can give assurances he has a deal with the Senate is when we can vote on both of those bills out of the House together with the president's assurances that nothing will get messed up in the Senate because originally, remember, we said we wanted a Senate vote, because there's a few senators we may not have as much trust as we do the president on.


So, nothing has changed on what I or Pramila or others in the Progressive Caucus have said. We want to send the president to Europe with a big win on climate. And the big win on climate is in the Build Back Better Act, not the infrastructure bill. So we have to do both together to give him that credibility that he really needs to be able to go there with.

SCIUTTO: You have said publicly that you're not throwing lines, red lines out there because you want to negotiate, you want to get a deal done.


SCIUTTO: Many of your colleagues are very publicly setting red lines. And beyond the setting of red lines, there's some lack of clarity about what their actual positions are. Are you convinced that all of your Democratic colleagues are negotiating in good faith?

POCAN: I can't speak for all my colleagues, but I do think it's the wisest approach --

SCIUTTO: That's not an endorsement. That's not an endorsement exactly of the negotiating tactics.

POCAN: I am saying, I don't think it's a good idea to throw lines down there. I think we should all be working together to get something done. The problem that we have is, we have to make sure that both those bills get out of the House with the assurances we need. And I'm worried about a few things. Like, I think it would be a big mistake for us not to have a Medicare expansion in the Build Back Better Act, and I'm going to keep working towards that. I'm not throwing any lines down. But to say that dental and vision and hearing aren't healthcare issues, that would be a big mistake.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll look forward for the price tag for that expansion.

Congressman Mark Pocan, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

POCAN: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

HILL: Election officials targeted by former President Trump saying they now live in fear and are desperate for protection after a number of threats. We'll discuss, next.



HILL: Secretaries of state who were targeted by former President Trump for fighting his election lie say they are still living in fear after receiving a constant stream of threats.


HILL: Trump, as you'll recall, focused his anger on election officials in specific states, among them Arizona and Pennsylvania, after he lost the election. Well, officials and aides tell CNN again about that constant terror, and they say, too, that they're desperate for protection.

SCIUTTO: Desperate for protection in America in the 21st century. CNN's Dana Bash joins me now.

It's been nearly a year since the presidential election and we're still seeing the effects of Trump's lies. I mean they live with a significant portion, arguably a majority of Republicans, but it's then leading to real consequence, real dangers for people.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And our colleagues, Isaac Dovere and Sara Murray and others did incredibly important reporting because it's important not to forget that these are still officials in the trenches trying to organize as best they can for the next elections. I mean there's an election next week in Virginia. There's an election next week in New Jersey. But the big ones come a year from now.

And the fact is that the former president may not have Twitter anymore, but he still gets his message out. And it is constantly about the fact that he wants people to believe that these election officials in these states committed fraud when just the opposite is happening. He's committing fraud in lying to his constituents over and over again, or to his voters over and over again, and they are doing their best to hold it at bay. But it's a lot harder to do these days with the changes in these laws.

HILL: And, Dana, I know you have a special report premiering tonight that is looking specifically at all of these efforts to stop the vote. I want to play a little bit of that first.


TRAVIS CLARDY (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: We want to restore that confidence that we should all have in our elections. I don't think it was lost in Texas. I don't think it was in jeopardy of being lost in Texas.

BASH: Why do you have to restore confidence in an election that you're saying went well, that you're saying was free and fair? The only reason you would do that is because people are being gaslighted.

CLARDY: I do have to -- I think we do need to acknowledge, in the political zeitgeist that exists right now, that is hanging over like a cloud.


BASH: A zeitgeist perpetuated by the former president and his allies.

TRUMP: We had a rigged election. We had a stolen election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bigger picture is beyond Donald Trump. It is the changing demographics of the country.


HILL: It's so pervasive. What more are you diving into tonight, Dana? BASH: Well, it's what we were talking about with Jim just a moment

ago. It's the fact that the 2020 election still has -- and the lies about it still have very real consequences, whether it's the safety of the secretaries of state, or what I look at, looking into tonight in is how Republican legislators in key states have been -- in some cases you talk to them, it kind of feels like they've been forced to change the laws, forced by their own constituents on a local level who are hearing these lies. In other cases, they're using the lies to justify changes to voting laws that will have a very real effect on access to voting in the next elections about a year from now, for -- particularly for minority groups, but also how the votes, once they are in, are counted and certified.


Georgia is the perfect example. I went there. And in Georgia, the notion of Brad Raffensperger, who is still the secretary of state, pushing back against the former president, he can no longer do that by statute because it is now the Republican legislature who can take over if they don't agree with what he does. And so there are those kinds of safeguards that have been stripped away. And it really is about the fundamentals of democracy and that's what we look at in this special.

HILL: Yes, and how democracy is, you know, being chipped away, and right before our very eyes.

Dana Bash, appreciate it. Really looking forward to it. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

HILL: You can catch Dana's special report "Stop the Vote: The Big Lie's Assault on Democracy." It premiers right here on CNN tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

SCIUTTO: And still ahead, controversy erupting around the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. A judge ruling that the men he shot can be called "lotters" and "rioters" but not "victims." The men he shot dead. Why?