tv Amanpour on PBS PBS March 21, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
welcome to "amanpour" on pbs. tonight, the fire under facebook is heating up over the data of 50 million users that were harvested for political gain. this, as undercover footage shows the firm at the center of it all allegedly bragging about bribery. cambridge analytica's ceo has now been suspended. i speak to congressman adam schiff, the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee. and to one of mark zuckerberg's former mentors. plus, as the syria war wages into its eighth year, the award winning journalist joins me with her new book about all the ordinary people caught up in it. ♪
"amanpour" on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. explosive undercover footage aired by britain's channel 4 news revealing what is reporting as nefarious tactics used by a firm tied to the victories of both president donald trump and brexit in 2016. the company is cambridge analytica, a london based analytics firm. british officials are seeking a warrant to get into its offices right here to inspect its servers and systems. this after an undercover reporter from channel 4 news
posed as a possible client to obtain secret footage of executives. and in the next video, you'll hear the ceo. the report suggests he and his firm considered using bribes and entrapment to sway voters in an election campaign. >> we want to know what you can do to make sure that the people know the true identy of these people. >> we do a lot more than that. >> we speak to each other and to have a deal that's too good to be true.
>> so that was the ceo alexander nix in that clip, and as i say, in the last few minutes, the company has announced that it has suspended him. before that, cambridge analytica sent cnn a statement rejecting all the allegations in the channel 4 reporting, saying that the report is edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of the conversation that took place, and they say their executives entertained a series of ludicrous, hypothetical scenarios. but that is not the only scandal swirling around the firm. the whistleblower who lifted the lid on this says that cambridge analytica misused the data of 50 million americans collected from facebook. the firm denies using facebook data in the 2016 u.s. election, and facebook's rules at the time allowed the collection. but facebook says it didn't know the data would be used for anything but an academic study. lawmakers around the world now say that facebook's ceo and
other executives need to explain themselves clearly once and for all. british mps have requested that ceo mark zuckerberg give evidence, and facebook says it will brief multiple congressional committees in the u.s. this week. congressman adam schiff, the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee, joined me earlier to talk about all of this from washington. congressman schiff, welcome to the program. so i want to know what you precisely are asking facebook, cambridge analytica right now. are you calling on mark zuckerberg or the head of cambridge analytica to come and testify before your committee? >> yes. i think that we ought to have the testimony not only of the facebook ceo, but i think the ceos of other major social media platforms that the russians exploited during the campaign. we heard from the general counsel at an open hearing earlier last year. but we've learned a lot since
then. i think there are a great many questions that need to be answered. in particular concerning facebook, these allegations of cambridge analytica are deeply distressing, that the private data of 50 milli america may have been misappropriated and used in an effort t manipulate them during the election. we have invited the whistleblower, christopher wylie, to come before our committee. he's accepted that invitation. even though the republicans have shut down their efforts, we're continuing, because these questions need answers. >> are you saying, congressman, before i play you a sound bite of what christopher wylie told cnn, that if you were to have these testimonies, that it would just be the democrats or would the whole committee, bipartisan, be operating? >> well, we invited christopher wylie, the whistleblower, to come and testify before our committee. we will invite the republicans. i don't know whether they will participate. they're continuing to investigate the state
department, the fbi, the justice department, it's not as if they lost their appetite pour investigation, they just don't seem to be interested in investigating what russia did or the trump campaign did. in terms of the ceos, that has to be done in a full committee basis. we hope that the republicans would join in requesting that testimony. but it ought to be an oversight issue not just for the intelligence committee. >> this incredible news about cambridge analytica, the election, facebook, and the like, i just want to play you a sound bite, part of an interview that christopher wylie, the former employee, said to cnn last night, and particularly because obviously we're talking in the context of robert mercer, who is a big republican conservative donor. steve bannon, and cambridge analytica, all sort of around the same issue. this is what christopher wylie told us about this last night. >> the company good funded in
the spring of 2014, and he wanted to be able to have a functioning program in time for the midterm. so we have sort of a steve bannon and a billionaire breathing down our necks going where's the data, where's our information weapons? >> so that's pretty explicit. but i want to particularly ask you, because american election law prohibits foreigners from controlling or drekly or indirectly participating in the running of a campaign. do you believe that was violated in this case from the knowledge you have right now? >> it's certainly possible, and we owe it to the american people to find out. steve bannon obviously was in very early in terms of the formation and worked for cambridge analytica, and the timing in which they got this facebook data is essential to determine did they bring on this researcher who had this relationship with st. petersburg university, did they bring him
on for the purpose of get thing facebook data in a way and with a speed they couldn't do it legally. what did the campaign know about this? what was the campaign's knowledge or involvement in this? did any of this violate u.s. laws? these are certainly i think very important questions we need answered. we have testimony from alexander nix before our committee, but at the republican insistence, and even though he was frequently in the united states, they wouldn't allow for in-person testimony. they did it by videoconference. that was wholly inadequate. even then it appears that alex nix's testimony may have been untrue vis-a-vie the facebook data. we need to find out. it's certainly inconsistent with what we're seeing from this whistleblower. >> i want to know whether what you think facebook has said in regard to all of this is a helpful matter or shoots
themselves in the foot. let me quote facebook's statement. the claim that this is a data breach is false. people knowingly provided their information. no systems were infiltrated, no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked. how doeshat sit with you? >> i don't know whether it's better or worse that the private data of 50 million americans may have been inappropriately used and that wasn't a breach. that may be a worse problem. but cambridge analytica had facebook people embedded within its operation. did these people know where cambridge analytica had acquired the data. these are very important questions that we need to get answers to, and i don't think we're anywhere near finding out at this point. >> i want to know whether the u.s. congress needs to sort of get up to speed with britain and other parts of europe without more robust laws on privacy, which are doing more to try to
ensure data privacy and no breach or this kind of usage of people's data can be possible. >> it's certainly true that we have lagged behind in terms of the oversight that we've done in congress. this is something that really transcends what the russians did. but the broader issues are even more important and that is how was this private information acquired? how was the use of this to manipulate voters conducted? who was knowing of this while it was going on? and even more broadly, what does this say about how americans now get their information? how much can we rely on what we see? and how much are we seeing only that which the algorithms want to show us? information essentially that we are choosing to see and contrary points of view we are choosing to ignore? >> very important points, which we'll discuss with our next guest. but for the moment, congressman schiff, thank you for joining us
from capitol hill. >> thank you. so what are facebook's most senior leaders like mark zuckerberg thinking right now? roger mcname was an early mentor to mark zuckerberg and he confronted the ceo about what he calls facebook's maligning influence and joins me now. welcome to the program. >> it's a great pasure to be here, christiane. >> you just heard that cambridge analytica has suspended its ceo, but you also just heard what adam schiff said about meeting mark zuckerberg and the ceo to talk to them about what's going on. what do you think right now? because you wrote an op-ed that you didn't publish, but you took it to mark zuckerberg and cheryl sandberg complaining about kind of a bad business model and the algorithms that let, in your words, bad actors influence
users. >> i wrote that op-ed and gave it to them roughly nine days before the u.s. presidential election. there were a lot of signs of issues then. as their friend and mentor, i went to them privately and spent three months trying to persuade them that i thought there was a systemic issue in the product. their response was to treat it like a public relations problem, not a business problem. and they kept saying roger, we're a platform, not a media company. we're not responsible for what third parties do. and i kept saying to them, i'm sorry, guys, you have 1.7 billion members, that's the number they had then. if they decide you're responsible, it won't matter what the law says. >> so that was three months ago -- >> no, that was in 2016, before the election. >> 2016. >> i've been at it ever since. >> have you even been at it since this latest cascade of bad
news over the weekend with these channel 4 reports and "new york times" reporting? >> they're not talking to me anymore, so i have to communicate through the press. the thing i've been expressing to facebook employees is this notion this is a moment of truth. i can understand at the beginning they did not appreciate how their strategy of growing at any cost might have negative repercussions. but the truth is, they have known this for at least a year now. there's no excuse. the fact that they're not coming forward and dealing with it, that is a crisis that is going to destroy the company and it's already destroying democracy all over the western world. >> that is a very bold statement to make, destroying the company. and we've obvious hi seen what it's doing to democracy and the complaints about that. but we are watching a massive drop in facebook stock. do you really think the company cannot arrest this problem and do proper damage control? >> i have believed from the
beginning they could do so, but they need to start. they haven't even taken the first step of admitting there's a problem. they've never reached out to critics or provide data to investigators. they always pretended like they can't do that. they haven't reached out to the people that are affected, which they should do. 126 million people were touched by russian interference in 2016. they should be reaching out to those people saying listen, let's stop future interference. the russians are trying to keep you from voting by making you feel bad about democracy. so everyone should vote. by not doing that, facebook is say thing is not our problem, we don't care. and i'm going, guys, come on. you could see it in their numbers. there was less usage of facebook in north america in the fourth quarter for the first time in history. that will be true in the march quarter. if they don't do something soon, people will realize they can't trust facebook anymore. that is the problem i'm talking about that might threaten them permanently.
>> so what do you make -- you heard congressman schiff and the british parliament are also requiring that mark zuckerberg himself come to testify about these issues. and you heard that facebook says it will testify before a number of committees the next week or the coming week. is that enough? do you think mark zuckerberg needs to go to congress and save the day for himself? >> i don't know that he can save the day. but the first step of healing is to admit you have a problem and address the people doing the work. mark has made billions of dollars from this. he can't hide in a bunker. i would just say to him right now, dude, come on out and handle this thing. you're a big guy. i mean, you can be a hero in your own movie by getting in front of this thing now, recognizing there's a problem with the product, and committing and actually doing the things necessary to fix it. i think people will reward him with trust if he does that. every day that goes by they
don't do it makes that a lot hard tore do. >> let me just read you something that facebook has said in the response. in the past five years, we've made significant improvements in our ability to detect and prevent violations by app developers. do you believe that? >> well, let's lock at the fa s facts, christiane. in 2011, the u.s. trade commission said that facebook required the affirmative, active approval of users for any sharing of their data. they left in place the tool that alexander kogan used, which is the tool that allowed them to harvest friend data in place until 2014. my partner just wrote an op-ed in "the guardian" which he pointed out when he was in charge of privacy on the facebook platform, they had no engineering resources to make sure they did protecting.
i think the company has shown a flagrant disregard since at least 2011. and i don't think we should accept anything they say. this is one of those things where show me the money. show us that you have made changes. demonstrate that you're protecting people, because the timeline here does not make facebook's case at all. >> so i said that you were an early investor, and you're still a stockholder, a shareholder. >> i am. >> for many reasons you're concerned about this. but i want to read to you a quote that was from mark zuckerberg, admittedly when he was about 19 years old, when he's still at university. and it was instant message exchanging while at harvard. we can put it up. he's basically saying to a friend, if you ever need info about anyone at harvard, just ask. i have over 4,000 e-mails, pictures, addresses. a friend says how did you manage that one? he said people just submitted it. they just trust me, dumb --
later he told "the new yorker" about that, that i think i've grown and learned a lot. but, i mean, it shows that forever this was an issue. the idea of somebody, some company having all of this, and just, you know, dependant on the grace of god or good will where this data would go. am i wrong? >> one of the factors here is that silicon valley has a culture of libertarianism that basically says moving fast and breaking things is okay. that nobody is responsible for anybody but themselves and it's okay to break themselves because it's somebody else's problem. when i knew mark, which was 2006 to 2009, he was a decent, wonderful person. i liked him enormously. he was intense and different, but in a way that struck me as being constructive. everything that's happened over the last couple of years last caught me by surprise. frankly, every day that goes by that it continues, i find it astonishing.
i want to plead with him to just step back a little bit, look at this and recognize that it doesn't have to be this way. he doesn't have to be the enemy. >> all right. thank you so much. all those questions we hope will be answered in the upcoming weeks. in the meantime, social media may be seen as part of the problem now, but once it was heralded as part of the solution to so many of the world's ills. to activists and journalists in countries like syria who used it to tell stories that might never have been told. now as syria's war enters its eighth year, one journalist that refuses to let that war be forgotten, she tracks children and islamic extremists over the course of that war and she'll be speaking about it this weekend. and she's in the studio with me now to give a preview. welcome. >> thank you very much. >> just in the context of what we've been talking about, you
have been able to tell -- you went to syria several times, you yourself. >> for years. >> an immigrant from a civil war, from lebanon. so you know a lot about what's going on. i was struck by the stories of the children you managed to tell, include thing one child, this young girl who was essentially physically affected by the trauma and the fear. tell me about that. >> she was a little 3-year-old girl. she became sick with a hormonal condition that doctors said were brought about by the fear. so her family tried to treat her, but there were no specialists in the rebel-held areas. so they have to escape to turkey. >> and you joined them on part of that journey. it was dramatic. how did a family -- and he was with the free syrian army, the father, fighting against the assad forces at the time. they had very, very young kids. how did they make it out? >> they were smuggled across the
border. i documented in the book that the fact is, every time somebody came and went, every time i came and went into syria, i had to enter and exit the same way. >> it was in the nighttime, there wasn't -- it wasn't like they were shown a lovely road and a gate. >> no, they didn't even have passports. they crossed on foot and they crossed the mountains on foot. it's the kind of situation where it's in complete darkness. you can't hold a cell phone light up. you can't smoke a cigarette or use any illumination that may give you away. these are very young kids. the eldest was 10, the youngest was 3. they made this journey in order to treat the joiningest chi eyo. >> so they got out. but you met with other people. what did they make of you as a
women? >> there were kidnapping threats made against me. i tell the story of three al qaeda members. one was in the inner circle. i presented this story in such a way with an immediacy and i want to place readers there. i want to place you on the journey with that family. i want to take you into the meetings with the saudis and the qataris, as they arm certain rebel groups and show you what was happening at the highest levels of islamic militancy in syria. >> you do a very good. when we talk about remembering, there's a very poignant quote from a young man. you describe how he's crushed by the world's abandonment, particularly around the use of sarin and chemicals by the assad regime. the young man said, i hoped the time will come and the proof will be ready here in the cave, but nobody cares. nobody cared about us or international laws and forbidden
weapons. it made me just want to wait for a barrel bomb to fall on me. this as he tried to hide and bury it for sometime in the future so he could prove what happened. >> that encapsulates what many syrians and the rebel fighters felt. the word i heard most often was abandoned, abandoned by the international community. since mid 2013, the syrians aren't even numbered. abandoned by the international organizations that supposedly cared for humanitarian causes. so that's the sense you get across rebel held northern syria. >> and it just does seem to be endless now. we have russia, we have iran. but otherwise we don't know what's going on. i wonder what you felt in your gut, because you couldn't get over into government-held territory. >> i managed twice and
documented that. in 2013 and 2016, i was able to go back in. >> what do you make of the recent pictures of president assad driving himself into the town of eastern ghouta, which had been under withering siege and bombs and air attacks, and sort of meeting like a hero with the residents there? it's a bombed out shell. >> it's vintage assad. it's assad pre-2011, when he presented himself as the every man. a man who would drive himself everywhere. so he's back to that look. but assad was never realistically going to negotiate his own demise, not while the russians and iranians backed him on the ground. >> so? >> he's here to stay. >> that's it? you don't see any way out of this. there's no negotiated political solution? >> i think at the end of the day, there has to be a negotiated political solution. but the notion that assad must go is unrealistic. >> thank you so much for reminding us of all the horror