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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Soon: Facebook Whistleblower to Appear at Senate Hearing; U.S. Seeing Encouraging Drop in Virus Cases and Hospitalizations; Bubba Wallace Makes History White First Win. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. It's Tuesday, October 5th. Five a.m. exactly here in New York. Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Christine Romans.


We begin this morning with a crisis for our children, public safety and for democracy. That is the urgent warning from the Facebook whistleblower who will face lawmakers on Capitol Hill in just a matter of hours from now.

Frances Haugen doesn't want Facebook canceled, but Facebook canceled itself Monday. The social media empire and its apps, WhatsApp and Instagram were all down for almost six hours Monday providing plenty of fodder on Twitter, a lot of people making jokes about vaccines.

ROMANS: Yeah, it was a good day for vaccinations because your uncle wasn't on Facebook.

JARRETT: The digital lives of billions in the U.S. disrupted with users reflexively refreshing their apps, and driving home Frances Haugen's point here. Quote, a company with control over our deepest thoughts, feelings and behaviors needs real oversight.

In prepared remarks obtained by CNN, Haugen is expected to tell senators the company's leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won't make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people. It doesn't have to be this way.

ROMANS: The 37-year-old former Facebook product manager revealed her identity during a "60 Minutes" segment that aired Sunday night. Her lawyer says his client is scared, but determined.


ANDREW BAKAJ, LAWYER REPRESENTING FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: We have one individual making a world of a difference because she had the courage to come forward and disclose what she believes to be wrong to federal government regulators. And it's her against a trillion dollar company. So to say that, you know, she's intimidated perhaps a little by a trillion dollar company is not an understatement.


ROMANS: A 17-year reckoning in the making, senators are likely to ask questions about Facebook's role in the January 6th insurrection, how it amplifies hate and disinformation and profits from it as well as how content on Instagram sends toxic messages to teens.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has more.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Facebook had a nightmare day on Monday with all of its platforms going offline. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down hours through Monday. And now, the headache for the company moves here to Washington, D.C., where later today on Tuesday, the whistleblower who left the company back in May will be testifying before the senate.

We saw earlier in the week, she spoke to "60 Minutes" where she outlined how she said Facebook was damaging democracy, and bad for elections, and bad for the mental health of children.

We have her testimony, her opening statement of her testimony that she will be delivering later today. Here is some of what she says in it. Facebook wants you to believe in false choices. They want you to believe you must choose between connecting with those you love online and your personal privacy, that in order to share fun photos of your kids with friends, you must also be inundated with misinformation. They want you to believe that that is just part of the deal.

And she says that she doesn't want to hurt Facebook. She doesn't want to hurt people who are working there. She wants to make Facebook better and she wants to create space for social media to be a positive force in society, something she says that is not happening right now. All eyes will be on Capitol Hill today -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Donie, thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in Gerrit De Vynck, technology reporter for the "Washington Post."

Gerrit, thank you so much for getting up with us. Has Facebook finally met its match with this whistleblower? She is credible. She has documents. She's prepared to face against this trillion dollar company, this goliath that is Facebook.

What are you watching for today?

GERRIT DE VYNCK, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the interest things is that Frances is going to make this argument Facebook is like big tobacco was several decades ago which was denying that cigarettes were dangerous to people's health for years before the government actually had to step in and say, look, we don't care that you're going to keep denying this. We are going to regulate you. And that's the argument she's making. Of course, she's coming with thousands of pages of documents.

The revelations inside of them, many of them are things that have been reported here and there in dribs and drabs over the years. There have been other leaks. There's also been research showing that some of these things are true.

But what Frances Haugen has provided is just more documentation from inside the company that in some cases they did research about what impacts their platform were having on people and there were employees who said maybe we should change some things.


And the company often decided to scale things back, but not all the way to maybe make changes, but not quite fast enough.

And Frances Haugen is saying, and she has many documents to back up some of her claims including research from inside the company that Facebook did make a lot of decisions based purely on profit rather just than the well-being of its billions of users.

ROMANS: You know, that big tobacco comparison is compelling. Listen to Facebook's Nick Clegg dismiss it.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The big tobacco comparison is everywhere right now and I -- how do you feel about those comparisons too big tobacco?



CLEGG: I mean, just (INAUDIBLE) quit -- well, because I don't think it's remotely like tobacco. I mean, social media apps, they're apps. People download them on their phones. Why do they do that? I mean, it has to be a reason why a third of the world's population enjoys using these apps.


ROMANS: Back in '94 when there was a similar moment with testimony for big tobacco, right, back then a third of people around the world were smoking. So there is kind of a compelling comparison.

DE VYNCK: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, there's questions of do we actually enjoy all the time we spend on our social apps, especially opening Instagram and waking up maybe half an hour later and realize you spent all that time scrolling.

I think, you know, Nick Clegg argues people use it. Of course, Facebook is an important vital communication tool for billions of people around the world. When they went down yesterday, I couldn't WhatsApp my family in Canada, and so it's very important, you know, this company does provide a lot of value.

But I think the arguments that the whistleblower Frances is making is not that Facebook should go away completely, but that the company has grown so powerful that it can't just have profit and growth as its main driver. It must use some of the social good as part of the yardstick that it measures its success against. And she says that lawmakers are going to have to force it to do it because it's not going to do it on its own.

JARRETT: Yeah, I don't know if I was more productive yesterday, but I certainly know --

ROMANS: I was.

JARRETT: -- I instinctively kept going back to Instagram to see if it's back online. Even though we are in the news business, we would have gotten alerted if it was back online. I kept going there. It shows you how it has that muscle memory built in now. It's something she's talking about. I wonder what would regulating Facebook actually look like, we've now moved, as Christine points out, the conversation from should we regulate, to what would it look like. The whistleblower makes the comparison to the department of transportation watching cars drive down the highway without knowing seat belts could exist.

What are some of the small changes that you think could make a difference here, Gerrit.

DE VYNCK: Yeah, I think one thing that a lot of people are asking for more is just more transparency. Facebook did this research internally that we're all talking about, you know, several years ago, as there's some way to say, OK, Facebook, when you learned about these things going on inside your company, can you just release them to the public immediately so that journalists, researchers and lawmakers can take a look at it and we can inform the conversation that way.

The comparison to cars are interesting, because, of course, regulators can, you know, take a car parked and look inside. But one of the important technologies that Facebook offers is this algorithm that recommends content to us. So, when you open Facebook or Instagram, the posts you see have been chosen for you by a software code that's very secret. They like to be able to look inside that as well.

ROMANS: Gerrit, one word, quickly, what is Facebook? Is it a public utility? Is it a platform for -- what is it? It's -- I don't even know how you would classify how to regulate it.

DE VYNCK: Yeah, I mean, it's all of the above, I would say.


JARRETT: Yeah, and it's changed the way we live.

ROMANS: And potentially a threat to democratic values. So, that's a problem. JARRETT: Gerrit, thank you.

ROMANS: Technology reporter for the "Washington Post."

All right. Monday was Mark Zuckerberg's awful, very bad day. Facebook accused of having a product that hurts people, knowing about it, covering it up, not a good look. And investors hammered the stock. Facebook shares tumbled nearly 5 percent Monday, worst day of the year.

Some context here. Despite Monday's decline, Facebook is up a stunning 19 percent this year and up an astonishing 753 percent since it went public back in 2012, showing the Facebook business model has been very profitable for investors.

Monday's sell-off cost CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally billions of dollars, more than $6 billion as Facebook's stock fell. He owns 14 percent of the shares. That moves him down Bloomberg's billionaire index. He's number 5 on the list with only a mere $121 billion. He now trails behind Bill Gates.

JARRETT: Number five isn't bad.

ROMANS: When $6 million is a rounding error, that is something.

JARRETT: All right. Still ahead for you, one state in America has failed to file for a third round of COVID relief funding for its schools. Why?



ROMANS: U.S. coronavirus numbers are improving. And now, doctors are urging everyone not to get too confident and let your guard down. Cases and hospitalizations have dropped, but an average of 1,800 Americans still died every day over the past week. The vast majority of whom were preventable deaths with vaccination.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, it may be too early to say that we're at the beginning of the end of this wave of covid-19, but several indicators say that we are going in the right direction. Let's take a look at a map of the United States. Those states in green, and you can see there are a lot of them, that means the cases are actually going down. The states in red, the cases are going up.


The states in orange, those states are holding steady.

Now, let's take a look at COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of September. As you can see, they have really gone down quite steadily, and that's really good news.

Now let's take a look at deaths. Deaths are going down. You can barely see it, but that decline is there. And the reason why you don't have as dramatic a decline is deaths usually lag behind hospitalizations.

Now, it's obviously too early to say we're anywhere near the end of this particular outbreak. There are still 2,000 Americans dying, about 2,000 Americans dying every day from COVID-19. Now, of course, a way to hasten the end of this outbreak is to get more people vaccinated. Still, in the United States, nearly one in four people has not gotten even a single shot of a COVID-19 vaccine -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for that.

The long-time head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, is stepping down. According to "Washington Post" and "Politico", Collins plans to announce his resignation today and will leave by the end of the year. The 71-year-old Collins has led the top government research agency under the last three presidents. The report says no decision has been made on an interim director.

ROMANS: Florida is leaving more than $2 billion in money on the table. Now, the Department of Education wants to know why. It is the only state, the only state in the country that has not applied for a third round of COVID-19 relief for its schools. They are calling out Governor Ron DeSantis for not prior prioritizing students.


ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD TEACHERS UNION: He's extremely reckless. When you come up with a deadline for hundreds of thousands of students across the state of Florida that are in public schools that need to have, you know, lots of resources and actual physical bodies in the schools to take care of our students, it says a lot. It's just wrong.


ROMANS: Governor DeSantis responding to a request for a spending plan with a statement saying: At this time, no district has articulated a need for funding that cannot be met with currently available resources. Whenever this may change in the future, the state of Florida will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Education to ensure Florida's students and educators have all the resources they need.

JARRETT: A protest against vaccine mandates turning violent in New York City. Video shows a group of protesters booing as they walk by a mobile COVID-19 testing unit in Manhattan on Monday.

Two of them then flipped the tent upside down. You can see it rocking there. Knocked over tables and chairs.

The group was demonstrating against the department of education COVID vaccine mandate in the city that went into effect Nonday.

ROMANS: Bad behavior. COVID has caused chronic bad behavior.

NASCAR's Bubba Wallace continues to make history on and off the course. "Bleacher Report" is next.



ROMANS: So, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace makes history becoming the first black driver to win in almost 60 years.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, Christine. This was a very special win for Bubba Wallace. It's his first win at NASCAR's highest level. He's the first black driver to win since Wendell Scott in 1963, and it happened at Talladega Super Speedway. Bubba had to lead with 71 laps when the race was called due to rain. He was declared the winner.

The 27-year-old getting emotional after the race, thanking his fans while saying, making this history pretty damn cool.


BUBBA WALLACE, NASCAR DRIVER: This is for all the kids out there that want to have an opportunity whatever they want to achieve and be the best at what they want to do. You have to go through a lot of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You have to stick to your path and not let the nonsense get to you, and stay strong, stay humble, stay hungry. Been plenty of times I wanted to give up. Surround yourself with the right people. It's moments like this you appreciate it.


SCHOLES: Bubba is the only black driver at NASCAR's highest level. This is the first win for the 23 car co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. This win coming at Talladega. That's where a noose was found in his garage in June of last year. The FBI found that the noose was at the end of a garage pull that was there before Wallace was assigned to that garage.

All right. Monday night football in Los Angeles last night, was delayed 35 minutes due to lightning in the area. Check out Jon Gruden's reaction to that news. He looked up thinking, aren't we inside at SoFi stadium? Despite being in L.A., it was like a home game for the Raiders, not the Chargers. Justin Herbert quieting those Raiders fans in the first half, throwing three touchdown passes.

The Raiders made a game of it in the fourth quarter, but Austin putting the game away with an 11-yard touchdown run. Chargers win 28- 14. Arizona Cardinals now the lone unbeaten team left in the NFL.

Jaguars coach Urban Meyer apologizing after video of him in a club in Ohio went viral over the weekend.


URBAN MEYER, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS HEAD COACH: I apologize to the team and staff for being a distraction. Stupid. So, I explained everything, what happened, and I owned it, you know, just stupid -- should not have put myself in that kind of position.



SCHOLES: Urban Meyer stayed back in Ohio after the team lost to Bengals last Thursday, as opposed to flying back to Florida. The Jaguar, 0-4 under Meyer and lost 19 straight games. They haven't won a game since the 2020 season opened.

Golden State Warriors taking their preseason game in Portland. Starting forward Andrew Wiggins has now been vaccinated and he says he felt like he had no choice.


ANDREW WIGGINS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS FORWARD: I feel like the only option was to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA. It feels good to play, but, you know, getting vaccinated, that's going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time. That's something I wanted to do, but kind of forced to.


SCHOLES: So, Christine, in order for players to play home games in San Francisco and New York, those players for those home teams have to be vaccinated. Andrew Wiggins was one of the guys that was publicly holding out. Now all eyes really turn to Kyrie Irving and his decision because his vaccination status is still unknown.

ROMANS: I have a question to the team doctors. Clearly they're getting really great medical advice from their team doctors, right, about how if you get COVID, you aren't playing in the NBA, you're out.

JARRETT: Yeah, over 90 percent of people vaccinated.

SCHOLES: Yeah, the NBA is 95 percent now. So the overall number is great.

ROMANS: That's better than the public. So, yeah, all right, Andy, nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Appreciate it. All right, still ahead for you, President Biden ripping Republicans

for playing politics with the debt ceiling.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do quite frankly think it's hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.


JARRETT: How Republicans responded, next.