Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Leaked Documents Show Facebook Maximizing Profits At Users' Expense; Senate To Convene Hearing On Protecting Kids Online; Bucs Negotiate Deal For Return Of Historic Brady Ball. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Damning revelations from the "Rust" movie set. The assistant director had previously been fired over gun safety issues. And according to "The Wrap," the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins had been loaded with live ammunition and used by crew members for target practice that morning.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The FDA's vaccine advisers vote today on Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids between five and 11 years old. If the emergency use is approved, parents could begin vaccinating their children as soon as early November.

ROMANS: The Biden White House launching a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy at the State Department. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says it's part of an effort to strengthen the cyber expertise of U.S. diplomats.

JARRETT: Comedian Dave Chappelle breaking his silence about his Netflix special, which has drawn heavy criticism for his transphobic takes.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody's demands.


JARRETT: Chappelle also denies reports that he refused to speak with transgender Netflix employees who staged a walkout last week.

ROMANS: Scientists have found clues to ancient life inside a ruby that's 2.5 billion years old. Researchers looking for gemstones in Greenland discovered a surprise locked in one of them; a pure form of carbon that they believe may be the remains of ancient microbial life -- mind-blowing.

JARRETT: Profits over people. That's the bottom line from a trove of leaked documents that show Facebook maximizing engagement at all costs and delaying efforts to fight misinformation and radicalization. ROMANS: The thousands of documents pulling back the curtain on the

company's role kindling the Capitol insurrection, inflaming violence overseas while doing little -- nothing to stop it -- ignoring employee concerns about human trafficking, and possibly even misleading its own oversight board, and so much more.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Any parent -- anyone that's interested in our democracy, no matter what party they're part of, you start to see the harm. You start to see the injury. You start to see the fact that they are putting profit -- and that is based on polarized and algorithms that promote polarized speech and angry speech -- they put that in front of the safety of this nation. That's a fact.


JARRETT: You can also expect to see additional documents reported out over the coming weeks. Among the new revelations, how easy and quickly it is to be poisoned by disinformation on Facebook.

Here is CNN's Donie O'Sullivan.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): How does your Facebook feed become so politically polarized? In the summer of 2019, Facebook ran an experiment to find out. It created a fake account for a 41-year-old mom living in North Carolina. They called her Carol Smith.

Carol started off by liking a few popular conservative Facebook pages like Fox News, Donald Trump, and Melanie Trump. But quickly, Facebook began dragging her down a rabbit hole of misinformation. After only two days -- two days, Facebook recommended Carol follow a QAnon page. And a few days later, it suggested she follow another.

This experiment was never meant to be made public but details about it were included in documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who says the company is not doing enough to crack down on conspiracy theories and online hate.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: And they know that algorithmic-based ranking -- so, engagement base ranking keeps you on their sites longer. You have longer sessions, you show up more often, and that makes them more money.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): By week three of the experiment, Carol's feed had become, quote, "a constant flow of misleading and polarizing content," according to the Facebook employee who was running the account.

A lot of us spend way too much time on social media and when we try to cut back on those apps companies like Facebook will often send us a push notification to lure us back. That's exactly what happened during this experiment as well. The Facebook employee noted how they were traveling for a conference in the second week of running Carol's account and were checking Facebook a little bit less. And so, Facebook began sending push notifications.

One notification was actually to a Facebook post claiming Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was in 2019, years after the ludicrous conspiracy theory had been widely debunked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it does is amplify the messages that it knows will drive engagement. And it just turns out we humans get most riled up by lies and hate and all sorts of misinformation.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): After running the experiment for four weeks the Facebook employee recommended the platform stop promoting pages that are clearly linked to conspiracy theories like QAnon. But it still took the company more than a year to ban QAnon entirely from its platform, doing so only a few weeks before the 2020 election.


TEXT: "While this was a study of one hypothetical user, it is a perfect example of research the company does to improve our systems and helped inform our decision to remove QAnon from the platform."


ROMANS: So, we have a whole team really digging into these Facebook files, folks. Let's bring in CNN business writer Clare Duffy. She has been following the Facebook saga extensively.

And we have some brand-new reporting -- good morning -- that despite a global presence, Facebook has had a difficult time. Researchers repeatedly warned that the company was not equipped to address hate overseas. Hate speech and misinformation in languages other than English. Why?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: So, that's right. We learned last night during Facebook's earnings that the company now has more than 3.6 billion users across its family of apps, and most of those people are outside of the United States. And while we focus so much on the harms that Facebook causes in the United States, this is actually the safest, best version of Facebook there is.

So, researchers over the past couple of years have warned about these problems where -- in countries where they consider the most at risk. Countries like India, Afghanistan. The company doesn't have moderators who speak all of those languages. These are very linguistically diverse places and so, therefore, there's lots of hate speech and lots of misinformation.

ROMANS: So, it's a platform. It's not a -- it just -- as a platform it doesn't take responsibility.

JARRETT: That's their argument.

ROMANS: Right -- that it doesn't take responsibility for the content.


DUFFY: That's right, but in places like in the United States where we speak English, Facebook has lots of moderators who are working on flagging misinformation. Its automated system can proactively find misinformation and hate speech. And yet, in some of these countries that are most at risk, it's lacking those same systems.

JARRETT: So, speaking of flagging problematic things, your reporting, which was just devastating in my mind, on all the ways that human trafficking and sex trafficking is allowed to flourish on Instagram -- something that you flagged to the company that you found in your own reporting. And what do they do? They take it down because you found it?

DUFFY: That's right, yes. So, the company says that for years it has banned this kind of human trafficking of domestic workers on its platforms.


DUFFY: But just last week I found active Instagram accounts that were -- that were very obvious. I used the search terms that Facebook's own researchers have identified in these internal documents and I was easily able to find active accounts on Instagram offering domestic workers for sale -- people for sale on the platform that Facebook took down after I flagged it.

JARRETT: And what do they say about what they're doing to prevent that?

DUFFY: So, Facebook says that it's increasing its -- this A.I. system -- it has these things called classifiers, which are these automatic ways for the -- for the platform to detect harmful content. And so, it's building out these classifiers in various languages.

As far as the domestic worker -- you know, this human trafficking issues goes -- the company says it's also working with the international organizations to sort of learn about how it can best handle this issue and educate people on its platforms who might fall victim to them.

ROMANS: So, Facebook has to change, right? Facebook has to change. Congress, lawmakers, regulators, people inside Facebook, consumers of Facebook say it has to change. What does that look like?

DUFFY: It's a good question. You know, I think what these documents really show is that even when the company is made aware of its own problems it can really struggle to fix them. And Facebook has talked about how it spent $13 billion; it has tens of thousands of people working on this issue. But what the whistleblower has said is it may not matter how much it's already spent; what does it need to spend in order to really address these issues.

JARRETT: I mean, it's running ads right now saying it wants to have this conversation and it wants -- or at least it's open to the idea that changes are needed. I wonder -- what are -- what are you hearing in terms of advertisers? You know, folks outside are taking note of this. Is this going to affect their bottom line?

DUFFY: So, we've seen advertiser boycotts of Facebook before. Last year when there was this conversation about hate speech on Facebook there was a big advertiser boycott. But a lot of the time when these big companies -- you know, Coca-Cola -- these big brands that we're familiar with boycott Facebook, it doesn't necessarily make that much of a difference because the base of Facebook's ad revenue is lots and lots of small businesses --


DUFFY: -- that really rely on the platform. There's not as many other options for them.

JARRETT: Well, it -- you know, during that blackout a couple of weeks back you really saw how many ways that its tentacles reach into things -- you know, things that you wouldn't even think of you need a Facebook account to sign on to, right? It's so interwoven in our daily lives.

DUFFY: Right -- I think that's right. And we hear people sometimes when Facebook's problems come up say oh well, just delete Facebook. But the reality is that that's just not possible for everyone, especially in some of these foreign countries --


DUFFY: -- where Facebook is a primary gateway to the internet.

ROMANS: Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told one of our colleagues "I don't think ever before a single company has been responsible for so much misfortune."

But this is bigger than just Facebook now. Misinformation and this model is really prevalent around the world. I mean, can you put the toothpaste back in the tube is the question.


DUFFY: Yes -- you know, I don't think that you can. I think that Facebook talks a lot about this -- that it operates in this larger social media ecosystem where misinformation has really run rampant beyond Facebook. But I think while we need to be paying attention to the full ecosystem, we can't lose sight of the fact that Facebook is the biggest player here.

JARRETT: That's the thing. No one is as big and has as big of a reach globally as Facebook.

ROMANS: And it all started with the is she hot or not dorm website, right? And now --

JARRETT: I love that Christine always brings that up. It's back to this.

DUFFY: Circulating on Twitter yesterday.

ROMANS: Yes. Just such pure, pure origins.

JARRETT: Thank you for your reporting, Clare -- excellent job.

ROMANS: Thank you, Clare.

DUFFY: Thank you.

ROMANS: It's called the great resignation -- COVID reshaping the pandemic jobs market. A census survey found nearly five million say they're not working because they're taking care of kids. Three million are worried about getting or spreading coronavirus. A record number of people are quitting their jobs. Americans want better pay, better working conditions, and flexible working arrangements.

Companies are scrambling in a war for talent. They are offering higher wages, sign-up bonuses, and other incentives to attract and keep workers. Finding skilled workers, the top concern of chief financial officers topping the supply chain nightmare and rising prices.

And here come the holidays. Amazon even offering a $3,000 signing bonus for its temporary holiday workers -- $18.00 an hour starting wage.

Companies are offering to help pay student loans for new hires. There are guaranteed bonuses in some cases in industries, stock options.

And then there's this. The Spanx founder Sara Blakely -- this -- look, days after signing a $1.2 billion deal with Blackstone, she gave each of her employees a first-class ticket to anywhere in the world --


ROMANS: -- and $10,000 to spend on their trip. That is some CEO founder love back to her employees.


ROMANS: We'll be right back.



JARRETT: So, how do you protect kids online? That's the focus of a Senate hearing that begins later this morning. Facebook is, of course, under fire. And Congress is showing somewhat of an appetite for reining in big tech, but we've heard that before.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us live from Capitol Hill. So, Melanie, will Congress actually do something about this, this time. And if so, what? MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: That is a great question, Laura. One Democrat put it to me as the time for self-regulation is over. These explosive new revelations about Facebook's corrosive impact on society are fueling bipartisan calls to crack down on big tech.

And there are a few ideas being kicked around right now. One of them is to reform the legal protections that protect internet companies from being sued or held liable for content posted by their users.

And one bill introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone would actually remove that liability if companies knowingly or recklessly use personalized algorithms to recommend content that ends up causing harm, either physically or emotionally. Now, the idea there is to focus on the algorithms as opposed to user-generated content, which can be a much more politically fraught debate, but it has no Republican co-sponsors as of yet.

The other big idea being kicked around is to create more competition in the marketplace. And the House Judiciary Committee actually passed a package of antitrust bills earlier this summer with the support of several Republicans, but it has yet to receive a full vote in the House.

Now look, there is bipartisan anger over Facebook and big tech right now, but the big question is whether it can actually turn into action. And part of the problem is that even though Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to rein in Silicon Valley, they have different reasons for wanting to do so and they also have different visions for how to do so.

And the other big piece of this, Laura, is money. Big tech is one of the biggest political spenders in Washington. They have, for a very long time up here, been incredibly powerful and have gone untouched. So we'll have to see whether this actually is different this time around. But proponents of cracking down feel like the tides are finally turning in their favor, Laura.

JARRETT: The lobbying aspect of this really key there. Melanie, thank you for your reporting -- appreciate it.

ZANONA: Thank you.

JARRETT: Well, the Chicago City Council poised to vote this week on one of the nation's most progressive basic income programs. This $31 million pilot program would give low-income households $500 per month for a year. It would be funded from the money that Chicago received from the pandemic stimulus package.

The program has the support of most of the city's 50 aldermen. However, the 20-member Black Caucus is urging the mayor to redirect this money to violence prevention programs.

ROMANS: All right. That'll be an interesting experiment to watch -- basic income. Looking at markets around the world right now for your Tuesday session, Asian shares have closed mixed. Europe has opened higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures leaning up a little bit.

It was, look, a record day for investors even with a big surge in oil prices. Another record high for the Dow. It's now within striking distance for the first time ever of 36,000. A record for the S&P 500, too. And the Nasdaq rallied just under one percent.

That milestone for oil prices above $85.00 a barrel for the first time in seven years. Higher oil means higher gas prices. A gallon of gas -- a gallon of regular up 20 cents from last month.

Investors are getting ready for another big day of tech earnings. Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft, and Twitter all report their third- quarter earnings after the closing bell.

And electric performance for Tesla yesterday. It is now the sixth company in U.S. history to be worth $1 trillion. Only Apple, Microsoft, Google owner Alphabet, and Amazon are worth more. Tesla's stock jumped 12 percent.

Hertz said it's buying 100,000 Teslas for its fleet. That is the largest order ever by a single buyer. It's also the biggest move into electric vehicles by a rental car company. Hertz said its rivals have been struggling to get gas-powered cars from traditional automakers -- of course, as that semiconductor shortage slows down production.


The U.S. supply chain still a tangled mess. Take a look at this. Cargo ships are literally circling off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach waiting to offload everything from car parts to toys and furniture. The backlog is stunning. All that stuff sitting out there, it's $24 billion in goods just floating outside the ports of Long Beach and L.A.

There are not enough truck drivers to move the goods once they get on land. The bottlenecks in the supply chain mean delays, higher prices, and fewer options for shoppers ahead of the holiday shopping season.

All right, Auburn's football coach refuses to talk about his vaccination status as the deadline looms for all university employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, a vaccine mandate has already cost one college football coach his job. Washington State let go of Nick Rolovich last week after he did not comply with the state's vaccine mandate for all employees.

And, Auburn University, meanwhile, has a vaccine mandate for all employees that's going to go into effect December eighth. The Tigers' head coach Bryan Harsin has refused to talk about his vaccine status and deflected questions about it again yesterday.


BRYAN HARSIN, AUBURN HEAD COACH: I'm aware of the new policy. You know, I appreciate you have to ask the question and understand it, but it doesn't change. I mean, the executive order -- you know, all the things -- it doesn't change the fact that I'm not going to discuss any individual's decision or status on the vaccine or anyone else's, including my own.


SCHOLES: All right, the World Series starts tonight in Houston. Braves' fans giving their team the red-carpet treatment as they departed for their first Fall Classic since 1999. The Astros, meanwhile, back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

And the Astros have heard the boos and cheating chants for two years now after the fallout from the 2017 sign-stealing scandal. But their superstar shortstop Carlos Correa says redemption isn't their main motivation.


CARLOS CORREA, HOUSTON ASTROS SHORTSTOP: So, I don't think the outside noise motivates us at all -- just the guys inside there. We motivate ourselves to just be better every single day and you see the results on the field.

FREDDIE FREEMAN, ATLANTA BRAVES FIRST BASEMAN: I think this is their third World Series in the last five or six years. They've gotten here a lot of times. But I think right now it's just two good teams going at it right now. But we've been hot for a long time so hopefully, that -- we can carry that into this World Series.


SCHOLES: All right, the Saints and Seahawks playing "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" in a downpour in Seattle. First quarter, Geno Smith going to fire it over to DK Metcalf. He'd lose the tackle and goes 84 yards for the touchdown. But from there, the Saints' defense just played stellar, allowing Seattle just 126 yards of offense the rest of the game.

New Orleans would win a low-scoring affair, 13-10 the final.

All right, finally, the lucky Buccaneers' fan who gave back the ball from Tom Brady's 600 career touchdown pass on Sunday getting a decent haul in return. Twenty-nine-year-old Byron Kennedy is going to get two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady, a jersey and game-worn cleats from Mike Evans who caught the pass and then gave him the ball. He's also getting $1,000 credit at the team store, and two season tickets for the rest of this season and all of next season.

But Brady told Peyton and Eli during the "MANNING CAST" last night that he could've gotten much more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Byron realized he lost all of his leverage once he gave the ball away. He should have held it and then get as much leverage as possible.

PEYTON MANNING, "MANNING CAST": Amateur move -- yes, yes. If he would have held it, he would have been sitting in the Tom Brady suite for the rest of the season. But amateur move on his part.


SCHOLES: And guys, Brady said he's also going to give Byron a Bitcoin, which is worth --


SCHOLES: -- around $63,000.


SCHOLES: But that all being said, the ball was probably worth, according to experts, around a half-million dollars. So, you know, he didn't get enough.

JARRETT: So, he apparently did not talk to Christine Romans about Bitcoin before he did that.

ROMANS: I don't think it's a really stable value-holding investment. I think it's (INAUDIBLE).

JARRETT: She's putting that nicely.

ROMANS: But that's all right. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: I'm going to get all kinds of hate now for saying anything bad about Bitcoin.

Mark Zuckerberg --

JARRETT: It's just facts.

ROMANS: Yes, just facts.

Mark Zuckerberg says everything's fine -- defiant despite leaked documents that show years of putting profits over people. And crew members were fooling around with live ammo while they were off-set on downtime before Alec Baldwin accidentally killed someone. Those stories coming up again.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning here to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Berman alongside Brianna Keilar. It is Tuesday, October 26th.

And new revelations this morning about what was happening on the New Mexico film set of "Rust" that could possibly explain how a gun that ended up in Alec Baldwin's hands ended up fatally shooting the movie's cinematographer and wounding its director.

This is what the founder and CEO of "The Wrap," Sharon Waxman, told CNN last night.


SHARON WAXMAN, FOUNDER AND CEO, "THE WRAP": We learned today and reported exclusively.