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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

A Facebook Whistleblower Claims the Site Prioritized Profit Over Public Good; Birds and Wildlife Killed As 3k Barrels of Oil Spew into the Pacific Ocean; Japan's Princess Mako to Marry Her Commoner Fiance This Month. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: All right, good Monday morning everybody, it is October 4th, 5:00 a.m. in New York, thanks for getting an EARLY START with us, I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: I'm Laura Jarrett, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, we have reports this morning from London, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, California and of course Washington D.C. But we begin this morning with alarming new allegations about Facebook choosing profits over safety, explosive claims from a former product manager now turned whistleblower. In an interview with "60 Minutes", 37-year-old Frances Haugen says the root of the problem is in the company's algorithms, the technology that decides what you see on Facebook.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I've seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse than Facebook or anything I'd seen before. Facebook over and over again shows to optimize for its own interest like making more money.


JARRETT: Now, armed with tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents, Haugen is pulling back the curtain on how the social media giant knows that its platforms are used to spread hate, violence and misinformation. A toxic stew that opened the door for the insurrection on Capitol Hill.


HAUGEN: One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking up that content today is, it is optimizing for content that gets engagement, reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it's easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.

SCOTT PELLEY, 60 MINUTES: Misinformation, angry content --

HAUGEN: Yes -- PELLEY: Is enticing to people --

HAUGEN: Very enticing --

PELLEY: And keeps them on the platform?

HAUGEN: Yes. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, they'll make less money.


ROMANS: Facebook defended itself against Haugen's accusation that it helped fuel the insurrection on January 6th, in particular, writing in part, "every day, our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true."

Frances Haugen is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee tomorrow. Let's bring in Cat Zakrzewski, she is -- Zakrzewski, she's a technology policy reporter for "The Washington Post" -- sorry, it's early on a Monday morning, so nice to see you. Thanks for getting up. You know, for years, people have accused Facebook of prioritizing profits over safety. Did we learn anything new from Frances Haugen that we didn't know or already suspect?

CAT ZAKRZEWSKI, TECHNOLOGY POLICY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The news that we've learned from Frances Haugen is that the company's own research showed how bad the problems were with Facebook's products and Facebook knew that, and it did not take the steps that it needed to, to fix it. For a long time, lawmakers, outside critics, former employees have raised concerns about a lot of the issues that Frances raised in the "60 minutes" interview tonight, and in a subsequent interview with "The Washington Post".

But at the same time, we haven't seen that these problems addressed from the company in a meaningful way. And she says that's because the company continues to prioritize profits.

JARRETT: Kat, you have some new reporting out this morning, I know. You also spoke with this whistleblower. What stood out the most to you when you talked to her?

ZAKRZEWSKI: When I spoke with her, she told me that Facebook in its current form is dangerous. And she said the current status quo where only Facebook has access to the data about the harms that its products are causing is untenable in a democracy. She's really concerned that a lot of the behavior that she exposed around violence, misinformation and these other issues, she's concerned that regulators haven't been able to effectively address it with new laws because they didn't have the information available that they needed to.

And so that's why she's decided to go public now. I think the other thing that stood out to me in our interviews is she's someone who has worked at a lot of tech companies. She had one of her own friends fall victim to misinformation on the internet. So, before she worked at Facebook, she really understood how bad these problems were. But in talking to her and hearing more about her experience, once she was there she realized just how bad misinformation was, particularly outside the U.S. In countries that are non-English speaking, where Facebook just hasn't made the same investment in fighting this harmful content.

ROMANS: It's so interesting because Facebook is kind of a new arena for regulators and social media new arena for regulators and for lawmakers quite frankly, who just have basically been sitting on the sidelines during all of this.


The Facebook VP for Global Affairs Nick Clegg was on CNN this weekend with our friend Brian Stelter to talk about the platform's impact on specifically the January 6th Capitol riot. Listen.


NICK CLEGG, VP FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS, FACEBOOK: I think the assertion is that January the 6th can be explained because of social media, I just think that's ludicrous. The responsibility for the violence on January 6th and the insurrection on that day lies squarely with the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including then President Trump and candidly many other people elsewhere in the media who were encouraging the assertion that the election was stolen.

And look, I think this -- I think it gives people false comforts to assume that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polarization in the United States.


ROMANS: Interesting to me that he's deflecting kind of to traditional media, right? Not social media. Does he make a fair point?

ZAKRZEWSKI: So, I don't think that anyone is accusing Facebook of being the cause of these issues. The argument that we're seeing from the whistleblower and from critics of the company is that Facebook plays a key role in amplifying it. And so what we see Facebook continue to do on response to this story is to try to deflect and cast blame in other places. And you know, this comes at a moment, the revelations about January 6th that we heard from Frances last night, come at a moment that lawmakers are really concerned about.

That we know that the January 6 commission and the lawmakers in Congress who are probing this have requested documents from Facebook about its role. And you know, that interview from Nick Clegg yesterday on CNN really illustrates a broader strategy that we've seen from Facebook throughout this entire saga for the past few weeks as the "Wall Street Journal" has been disclosing these documents and publishing major revelations from them. We've seen throughout the process that Facebook's top executive Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are nowhere to be found. Instead, they're sending out the next-tier level executives like Nick Clegg, Antigone Davis, others should answer for this.

ROMANS: So, you know, I tell my mom and her friends all the time, look, you know, you're a profit center, you're a profit center. This isn't for the public good, for your public good. You know, you are a product when you're on Facebook, and I think a lot of people still don't understand that --


ROMANS: In these stories and these whistleblowers have really kind of shed some real light on that. Thank you so much, Cat Zakrzewski; technology police reporter for "The Washington Post", nice to see --

JARRETT: Thanks Cat --

ROMANS: You this morning. All right, to southern California now, an environmental catastrophe there. Crews are racing to mop up a massive oil spill along a 5 mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean after a suspected pipeline burst over the weekend. More than 3,000 barrels of oil removed from the water as thick crude tar washed over the Pristine beaches and wet lands. The oil also killing birds and other wildlife and raising concerns about the air quality. CNN's Natasha Chen has more from Huntington Beach.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, more than 1,200 gallons of oily water mixture have been recovered as of Sunday afternoon and 37,000 feet of boom had been deployed. But 1,200 gallons is nowhere near the potential total spill amount of 126,000 gallons. We've watched as boats have dragged a boom up and down the coast trying to collect that oil. The recovery and cleanup will take quite some time. So far, one oil ruddy duck is under veterinary care, and other reports of animals washing up with oil on them are being investigated.

People here at Huntington Beach have found tar balls on the bottom of their feet and on their skin which Orange County Public Health officials warn could cause skin irritation. Health officials said Sunday they would issue an advisory, especially for people with respiratory illnesses that product evaporated from the spill could also cause irritation for the eyes, nose, and throat, could cause dizziness or even vomiting. The bottom line is, people should stay away from the water and away from the shore line.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was there for a few hours today, and even during that time, I started to feel a little bit of a -- my throat hurt, and you can feel the vapor in the air. I saw what I'll describe as little pancake clusters of oil along the shore line and I've described it as something like an egg yolk. If you push it, it kind of spreads out, and so we don't want people to disturb those little clusters so that the cleanup can be more easily maintained.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHEN: The parent company responsible here is Amplify Energy. Their

CEO said Sunday they would do everything in their power to make this a quick recovery. The spill is about 4.5 miles offshore from a pipeline that connects from a processing platform to the shore. Divers were in place Sunday evening at the potential source site to investigate how this leak happened, and the National Transportation Safety Board has also sent out investigators to help figure out how this occurred. Christine and Laura, back to you.

ROMANS: Thank you Natasha.

JARRETT: Thanks so much, Natasha.


Move over, Harry and Meghan. There's a new royal wedding in the works, and this one is getting a lot of attention in Japan, that's next.


ROMANS: Brand new this morning, China in focus, the U.S. Trade Representative will condemn what she calls China's unfair trade practices. Katherine Tai expected to highlight some examples of how China's unfair trade practices have hurt American workers and American industries and have given Beijing an unfair advantage in the global trading system. A senior administration official says representative Tai will accuse China of failing to reform and actually not following through on 15 years worth of promises Chinese officials make to U.S. trade delegations.

The Biden White House has been reviewing U.S.-China trade policy and is expected to acknowledge the U.S. needs a new strategy.


The Trump administration tried to play tough with China, imposing tariffs on roughly $350 billion worth of Chinese made goods. Of course, American companies and consumers have paid those tariffs and business leaders are begging the Biden administration to drop some of those tariffs to help ease supply chain woes.

JARRETT: Well, a royal wedding with plenty of controversy. What would a wedding be without a little controversy. Japan's Princess Mako will finally marry her fiance, a recent law school graduate later this month, by marrying him, the princess will have to give up her royal title. CNN's Selina Wang is live in Tokyo. Selina, good morning. How is the Japanese public reacting to the princess marrying her non-royal college sweetheart?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, this entire topic is extremely controversial in Japan. Mako's engagement since it was announced to her college sweetheart Kei Komuro back in 2017, they've faced this relentless brutal media scrutiny so much so that the palace said it caused her to suffer from complex PTSD. Now, in Japan, women are barred from the throne and because she's marrying a commoner, she has to give up her title and leave the royal family. She is entitled to a payment of about $1.35 million in taxpayer money to help her start a new life, but she's expected to forego that payment for the first time in modern Japanese royal history.

She is bucking tradition and she's expected to move to New York where her fiance works after the wedding. Now, this wedding was pushed back after reports emerged related to a financial dispute related to Komuro's mother. That gossip then spiraled and public opinion in Japan turned against the princess' fiance. Take a listen to what residents told us about the wedding.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't think he's good enough to marry an imperial person. Japanese people's affection towards the imperial family will be gone. It is sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She has been waiting for years, and it must be painful, but I think it's amazing to see the two have kept their love.


WANG: And Laura, that scrutiny on the princess' fiance only continues with the latest scandal focused on his ponytail hairstyle. Just relentless media frenzy here around it, with many seeing as yet another sign of why he's unfit to be marrying a princess.


JARRETT: Poor guy.

ROMANS: I know, to be the center of attention like that, unwanted I'm sure. All right, Japan's new prime minister has officially taken office. What can you tell us?

WANG: Yes, well, Fumio Kishida is the next prime minister. He is known as this moderate liberal consensus builder who's also struggled to shake off an image as a boring, another boring politician. But Kishida campaigned on this plan of spending billions of dollars to help boost Japan's economy that's been hard hit by the pandemic and narrowing the income gap that's been worsened by COVID-19. He's also expected to support a strong alliance with the U.S. and other allies as bulwark against China's growing military assertiveness.

But the really big question here, Christine, is just how long he can stay as prime minister for before Shinzo Abe, Japan, rotated through six prime ministers in six years.

ROMANS: Wow, that's right. All right, Nice to see you Selina, thank you so much for this Monday morning.

JARRETT: Thanks Selina.

ROMANS: Programming note, the new CNN original series "DIANA" introduces viewers to the person behind the princess and reveals a life more complicated than fascinating than the world knew. "DIANA", it premieres Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

JARRETT: Definitely looking forward to that. And Tom Brady returning to the New England Patriots -- well, actually just returning to New England to take on his old team and he made history along the way. "BLEACHER REPORT" is next.



JARRETT: Welcome back. Tom Brady returns to New England for the first time as a visitor and breaks the all-time passing record along the way. Andy Scholes has your Monday morning bleacher report. OK, so, I guess if you're going to go back to your home team, not a bad showing.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONENT: Not a bad showing. It's always good to walk out with a win if you're going back home, Laura. And you know, Tom Brady won six Super Bowls, played for the Patriots for 20 years. So, it certainly was an emotional night in New England as he made his return to Foxboro and after arriving to the stadium, Brady chatting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and then sharing a hug. He then got a huge ovation and Brady chants when he took to the field before giving the fans his famous fist pump. The stadium was just filled with Brady jerseys in size, even a grown man wearing a G.O.A.T. costume.

Brady said it was just a very special night.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: It was awesome. I try not to predict what was going to happen and how I feel. And had a few emotional moments this week, just thinking about all the people that have really meant so much to me in my life. Better part of this community and I'm just very grateful for, you know, amazing time here.


SCHOLES: Game, first quarter. Brady to Mike Evans, this play right here, Brady passes Drew Brees to become the NFL's all-time passing leader. Now, this game, it was back and forth in the fourth quarter, the Patriots Nick Foles had the chance to take the lead on a 56-yard field goal, but it would bounce off the left up-right, Bucs hold on to win 19-17, Brady and Belichick would share a brief embrace on the field. And according to "ESPN", they then met for 20 minutes in the Bucs locker room after the game.


BRADY: Well, we got a personal relationship and, you know, for 20- plus years, so he drafted me here and had a lot of personal conversations that should remain that way and they're very private.


And I would say so much is made of our relationship. Nothing is really accurate that I ever see. It's all kind of, you know, definitely doesn't come from my personal feelings or beliefs.


SCHOLES: Elsewhere in the NFL, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throwing five touchdown passes against the Eagles -- check this, without rolling through his right, toss it underhand, to Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the score, Kansas City wins 42-30, giving former Philadelphia coach Andy Reid his 100th career win with the Chiefs. He's now the first coach in NFL history to win 100 games with two different teams. The Falcons meanwhile had an 8-point lead with 4 and a half minutes left and still managed to lose. Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke throws two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter including this incredible game-winning TD from J.D. McKissic, that was with 33 seconds remaining. Washington stuns the Falcons now at 34-30.

All right, tensions running high on baseball's final day of the season. Yankees hosting the Rays with a chance to clinch a Wild Card Berth. Scoreless in the ninth, Aaron Judge bounced it up the middle, Brandon Lowe tries to come home, but Tyler Wade slides in to win the game for the Yankees 1-0. They're back in the AL Wild Card game for the fifth time in seven years.

And they're going to head to Boston after the Red Sox rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat the National Rafael Devers belts a long home run, deep to center in the ninth, his second homer of the day, giving the Sox the 7-5 victory. Red Sox hosts the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game tomorrow night. The winner faces the Rays in the division series.

And the San Francisco Giants claiming the National League West title with, you know, a 11-4 win over the Padres yesterday. The Giants winning a franchise record 107 games and claiming home field advantage throughout the playoff. The Dodgers finishing a game back, they're going to have to play in the NL Wild Card game against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

That game on our sister network, "TBS". And Laura, you know, I've got to kind of feel bad for the Dodgers and their fans, they won 106 games and they got to play in the Wild Card game. One loss to the Cardinals and their season will be over. That'd be a tough pill to swallow.

JARRETT: Yes, that's for sure. Thank you, Andy --

ROMANS: Nice to see you --

SCHOLES: All right --

JARRETT: Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right, can Democrats reset this week to save the president's agenda? We'll discuss next.