Big Tech CEOs Testify Before Congress | Crooked Media
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January 30, 2024
What A Day
Big Tech CEOs Testify Before Congress

In This Episode

  • Despite reported headway in the negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected Hamas’ two primary demands for an extended temporary ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. Meanwhile, around a dozen Israeli troops disguised themselves as medics and civilians and stormed a hospital in the occupied West Bank, killing three Palestinian militants in the city of Jenin Tuesday morning.
  • Tech CEOs of several social media platforms are on Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about kids’ safety on the internet. Senators will question the CEOs about how their platforms contribute to child sexual abuse and exploitation and how to better protect children online.
  • And in headlines: Donald Trump will remain on Illinois’ March 19th primary ballot, UPS plans to lay off more than 12,000 employees this year, and Sabrina Ionescu and Stephen Curry will be competing in an NBA All-Star 3-point contest.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, January 31st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day where we are so excited to hear that Megan Thee Stallion is going on tour this summer. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, she told Good Morning America that she wants to give us all the Megan Thee Stallion experience. We are here for it. As long as Nicki Minaj stays far away. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Why do you even need to say her name? Priyanka. [laughing]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: The barbs. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: You’re literally trying to get us got. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: The barbs, they’re not going to come for me? Are they? Maybe. Maybe. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, Donald Trump can stay on Illinois’s ballot after all. Plus, WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu and two time NBA MVP Stephen Curry will be competing in an NBA All-Star Three-Point contest. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the latest on the many fronts of the expanding conflict in the Middle East. This is as of the time of our recording at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday night. Let’s start with the war between Israel and Hamas. Despite reported headway in the negotiations to reach an extended temporary cease fire and to get the remaining hostages released, yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s two primary demands. The first being that Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza and the second being the release of thousands of Palestinians who are currently being held in custody in Israel. In a speech in the West Bank, Netanyahu said, quote, “we will not compromise on anything less than total victory.” 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I think we need to hear and receive his statements as what he truly believes, and none of that seems to match with U.S. goals. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. That response comes as the Israeli government faces mounting pressure over how they’ve handled the war, and the fact that there are still over 100 hostages being held by Hamas. A lot of people in Israel, not happy about that. This could be just what he’s saying publicly, while being more amenable to negotiation behind the scenes. But when you take this, coupled with his very public rejection of Palestinian sovereignty and an eventual two state solution that he said just a few weeks back, his stance seems very clear, and it increasingly appears to be a stance that you just said is directly at odds with the U.S., which for decades has supported a two state solution. That, in particular, led Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Brian Schatz to become the latest members of Congress to publicly push the Biden administration on this issue. In a letter yesterday, they wrote to the administration, seeking clarity about their position on the direction of the Netanyahu government and their actions, as well as possible conditions for further aid to Israel and the US’s plan to support the people of Palestine after this war. As of now, there has been no response by the administration on that front and on the cease fire front no deal has been officially agreed to. But representatives from the US, Qatar, and Egypt are still working with both parties in hopes of getting something done here. I know so many people want to see it, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. It’s definitely something that the majority of the American public also want to see. So what else has been happening on the ground since the last time we spoke about this? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Lots going on as always. Yesterday, the Israeli military said that it had started pumping water into the suspected tunnel network underneath Gaza that Hamas has used to store and launch weapons, as well as to hide the Israeli hostages that they took on October 7th. That strategy is certainly controversial. Some officials have said that it’s not effective. The UN has said that it could damage Gaza’s already very fragile infrastructure for drinking water and sewage, so more possible ramifications there. The violence isn’t isolated to Gaza, either, as we’ve been saying, it has spread and escalated in the West Bank, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials, early yesterday morning, around a dozen Israeli troops disguised themselves as medics and civilian women and stormed a hospital in Jenin, which is a part–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Wow. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Of the occupied West Bank. There they killed three Palestinian militants, including a Hamas commander. The Israeli military said that these men were hiding out in the hospital, though according to the hospital director, one of them had been paralyzed since October and had been treated in the hospital’s rehabilitation wing ever since. Attacks on hospitals in general are illegal under international law, and dressing up as a patient or a doctor to feign protected status may have also been illegal, but any supposed protection goes away if the hospital is being used for military purposes. As the Israel Defense Forces have often claimed in Gaza. But again, individuals seeking medical care at a hospital does not constitute military purposes. So storming a hospital in disguise to shoot three men may not be so legal. I don’t think we’re in the clear on that one. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I don’t think you need to be an international law scholar to– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –call that out for what it is. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Earlier this week, three U.S. service members were killed and dozens of others were injured in an attack on a U.S. base in Jordan. And yesterday, President Joe Biden said he had made a decision about the U.S. response to that attack. What more can you tell us there? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So again, this is as of the time of our recording, could be different when you’re listening to the show. But he did not elaborate publicly on what that action would be, which, you know, of course, makes sense. He might not, might not want to articulate your military plan to the media before you do it, but that statement may have actually been enough on its own. Shortly afterwards, the Iraq based and Iran backed militant group that the Pentagon said was likely responsible for that attack on the base in Jordan, said that it was suspending military operations in Iraq under pressure from both the Iraqi government and Iran. You can imagine how much anxiety and fear the threat of a retaliatory attack by the U.S. might spark in Iraq, which is where this group is based. And Iran also was telling them to back off. So perhaps we’ll see more of that de-escalation that we were hoping for, you know, rather than moving in the opposite direction. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I think we’re going to just be waiting on pins and needles with this one, especially with the loss of the lives of U.S. service members, all of whom– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right.

 

Juanita Tolliver: –were Black Americans, who were reservists all from Georgia. So it’s a highly tragic story, and we’ll just have to wait and see. Now, looking to DC, tech CEOs of your favorite social media platforms are back on Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about kids safety, rather lack thereof, on the internet. Senators will finally question Mark Zuckerberg from Meta, Linda Yaccarino from X formerly Twitter, Shou Zi Chew from TikTok, Evan Spiegel from Snap, and Jason Citron from Discord about how their platforms contribute to child sex abuse and exploitation and how to better protect children online. And I say, finally, because this hearing was delayed when Yaccarino, Citron and Spiegel repeatedly refused to appear before the committee until they were subpoenaed. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: All right. So already kicking things off on a great note. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: You know? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: They had to be dragged in kicking and screaming. Cool. So tech CEOs tend to not be very forthcoming in congressional hearings, you know, especially when they have been subpoenaed to be there. But what should we expect to hear from them tomorrow? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: We should expect these tech leaders to claim that they’re on top of this rampant issue. Though there have been more claims in recent years that social media can hurt young users, including increasing risks of depression or even suicide. Claims that have been backed up by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. I also expect these CEOs to describe new tools and policies that they’ve just rolled out in the days and weeks ahead of the hearing, including X’s plan to hire 100 full time content moderators, which does not make up for eliminating a third of their content moderators over the past two years. Snapchat’s likely going to tout their expanded parental oversight tool. Meta is going to emphasize its plan to block children from receiving messages from people they don’t follow or aren’t connected to. Meta has also outlined federal policy proposals that would require app stores to verify users’ age before allowing downloads. And let’s be real, this all sounds super basic and options that should have been in place years ago, and these CEOs are clearly behind the curve. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: CEOs are behind the curve. I don’t think the people who will be asking them questions are any more up on that curve either. It is just it’s disappointing all around. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: There’s also a report from CNN that the CEOs from Snapchat and Discord intend to distance themselves from Meta by emphasizing that they do not focus on serving users algorithmically recommended content in potentially addictive or harmful ways. Of course, that still doesn’t address the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation online. And online safety advocacy groups have been clear in calling on these social media companies to do more and quickly. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So what do advocates and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to come out of this hearing? What is the best case scenario? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: So advocates are calling on the tech firms to commit to disconnecting their advertising and marketing systems from services that are known to attract and target youth. More regulations are another thing that they’re calling for, especially for tech companies who largely go unregulated, and protective tools that don’t put the onus exclusively on parents. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Ooh, that’s a good one. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: You know, as for the senators, this is a rare opportunity for bipartisan action led by Democratic Chair Dick Durbin and Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, as they want to shine a light on three bills that have already passed in committee but have yet to receive a vote by the full Senate. Those bills would expand protections for victims in federal court, ease the process for asking tech companies to remove child sexual abuse material, remove tech’s blanket immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws, and criminalize distributing or threatening to distribute sexual material involving children. So the goal is to build momentum behind those bills and to ultimately get a vote before the full Senate. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, please. And all of this feels even more timely with the Senate Judiciary expanding this push, especially considering the deep fakes that have been circulating recently. Taylor Swift is the most recent victim of this I know. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Tell us more about what’s going on. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, the onslaught of deep fakes and AI generated sexual images is a disgusting growing trend. In addition to today’s hearing, Senator Durbin, along with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley, introduced a new bill that would allow victims to be able to sue people involved in the creation and distribution of such images if the person knew or recklessly disregarded that the victim did not consent to the material. It’s a step in the right direction, y’all, and I am curious to see how this is discussed in the hearing, along with the other policies. We’ll keep following all of this and bringing you updates, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Donald Trump will remain on Illinois’s March 19th primary ballot after all. The eight member state board ruled that yesterday, in a unanimous vote, rejecting a complaint that he should be disqualified over a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause. The board of four Democrats and four Republicans said that it did not have the authority to determine whether Trump violated the US Constitution. But two Republicans who heard the case said they believe the former president engaged in the January 6th insurrection. Take a listen to what Republican board member Catherine McCrory had to say before casting her vote yesterday. 

 

[clip of Catherine McCrory] I want it to be clear that this Republican believes that there was an insurrection on January 6th. There’s no doubt in my mind. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 

 

[clip of Catherine McCrory] That he manipulated, instigated and aided and abetted an insurrection on January 6th. However, having said that, it’s not my place to rule on that today. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Okay, we love a clarification. We love a reality check from a Republican. Like, come on. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Love a person who can just simply say what we all saw. We all saw it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Point blank. The lawyers for the voters who challenged Trump’s eligibility said they plan to appeal. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week in a similar case out of Colorado about whether or not Trump can stay on this year’s ballot. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Three major companies announced layoffs on Tuesday, starting with the postal service sector. UPS announced yesterday that it planned to lay off more than 12,000 employees this year, citing a need to cut costs amid low package volumes and higher wages. According to the Teamsters, which is the union representing UPS workers. None of the layoffs apply to union jobs. The company is mainly laying off folks at the managerial level, but this comes after UPS. signed a labor agreement with its workers to avert a nationwide strike. You’ll remember that more than 300,000 UPS workers threatened to walk off the job last summer unless the company promised them better pay. According to UPS, now that the company is paying workers more, something has to give, hence the layoffs. A spokesperson for UPS said that the job cuts will come down in the first half of the year, saving the company about $1 billion dollars in expenses. In the news media sphere, Axios reported that The Wall Street Journal is set to lay off some of its journalists in the coming days as it restructures its DC bureau. A spokesperson for the Journal declined to comment on the matter, but that reporting comes after the L.A. Times laid off more than 100 journalists last week. Just a brutal, brutal week for media, most of them being union workers. And finally in big tech. PayPal told its employees yesterday that it would lay off 9% of its global workforce. That is around 2500 employees. It appears that no sector is safe. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Nope. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: If you are feeling like you are on shaky ground at the moment. It is all of us. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oklahoma education officials are facing heavy backlash from lawmakers after mistakenly awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to teachers and asking them to pay it all back with little to no notice. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Crazy. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: For context, Oklahoma’s Department of Education runs a recruitment program that gives teachers end of year bonuses fulfilling roles that are typically hard to fill. Think like special education instructors or early elementary school teachers. The bonuses ranged anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, and obviously teachers apply every year. But now some teachers who received bonuses for 2023 are being asked to pay them back because the state has determined that they didn’t qualify for the program despite previously approving their applications. I feel like we need to just let that marinate like you gave me the money, but now you ask for me back because you made a mistake like, no, no, that’s not going to work for me. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry love. That’s not how it works. [laughter] That’s just not how it works. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: The news was first reported by the Oklahoma Watch. It’s unclear how many bonuses were mistakenly paid out, but according to the watch, the state is requiring teachers to pay back their bonuses in full by the end of February. And when I say in full. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In full by the end of next month?

 

Juanita Tolliver: They’re talking about including whatever taxes were taking out. They expect that back too. Like, I’m so confused. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Insanity. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That’s not my problem. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Insanity. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh my gosh. Oklahoma Watch spoke to Kristina Stadelman, a special education teacher in Oklahoma who received a $50,000 bonus that she used to improve her home and put a down payment on a car for her family. When she found out that she somehow had to repay it to the Department of Education by the end of next month. She was devastated, saying, quote, “I came home the day I found out and just cried for two days straight.” Look, she has a lot of reasons to cry. Well, 50,000 reasons first. But also, the average teacher pay in Oklahoma is about $54,800, which ranks 38th in the country, according to the NEA. Like teachers clearly need this support. They clearly need these bonuses. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this isn’t like a fun bonus. This is like money people are relying on to survive for, you know, down payments for cars, expenses for people’s children. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Basic living needs. Yeah. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s just absurdity. In any other situation, if your boss had paid you a bonus at the end of the year and then came two months later and was like, actually, you need to give it back. No you don’t. That’s not how it works. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: No. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: You paid it. You made the mistake. Your money is gone. It is my money now. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Okay, bye.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, bye. [laughter]  Earlier this week, we talked about protests taking place all across France right now. And if there is one thing we know, it is that the French know how to stick it to the man. For the past two weeks, farmers have been calling for better pay, fewer regulations and fair competition with foreign products. But they have stepped up their game in the last couple days. To put pressure on French authorities they have started surrounding the capital and blocking major highways in and out of Paris, with dozens of tractors calling it the, quote, “Siege of Paris.” A lot of protesters have come prepared for an extended stay, with tents to camp out, food and water. So far, there have only been minor delays because of the standoff on the roads. But the government has warned that major disruptions could leave Paris with only three days worth of food supplies. Yesterday, the new prime minister, Gabriel Attal, addressed the farmers demands in a speech in front of the National Assembly promising emergency cash aid. But President Emmanual Macron has defended larger EU foreign policy at play. He will meet with the European Commission chief to discuss the farming crisis tomorrow. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: They are not messing around. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: They are not messing around one bit. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: They say you going to run out of food in 72 hours. You choose. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Not playing. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And finally. 

 

[clip of unspecified sports reporter] The greatest performance we have ever seen in this contest. And it is not even close. Final round score.

 

Juanita Tolliver: What you just heard was WNBA superstar Sabrina Ionescu shattering the all time three point challenge record last year. Ionescu’s performance sparked widespread chatter about how she’d match up against the NBA’s best shooters. And Sabrina said, sign me up. Ooh, we love some confidence. We love some. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Love it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I believe in myself. I know my value and abilities. So on February 17th, Sabrina and two time NBA MVP Stephen Curry will be competing in a three point contest at the All Star Weekend in Indianapolis. Ionescu and Curry, the two best shooters of all time in their respective leagues, hold the two highest marks ever set in the history of the competition. Ionescu surpassed Curry’s record with her performance last year making an astounding 25 of her 27 shot attempts. That said, it’s worth noting that the WNBA uses a smaller ball and shorter three point line than the NBA. Those rules were originally set to stay intact for this Curry Ionescu showdown. But you know what? Ionescu has demanded to shoot from NBA distance this time around. You love to see it. I just know I just know she’s going to beat Stephen and I can’t wait I can’t wait. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah this is really exciting. Genuinely want to tune in for this. Which I can say for very little sporting events is what I’m feeling. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. Come on.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: This is really cool. Also very cool of Steph Curry to be out there like promoting this and excited about this. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: 100%. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And being like I have found a worthy opponent. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Because it is. Like this really is an exciting matchup. And I mean, she shouldn’t have had to insist that she would shoot from NBA distance. It would have been cool if she like, had– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –with the ball and the length that they normally do. She’s shutting down everybody. She is like, there will be no contest on whatever the results of this competition are. [laughter] Gonna let it speak for herself. I love that. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I love it so much. And again, can’t wait to see Steph Curry lose. Yes. Come on, let’s do it. [laughing] And those are the headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go. Starting this Saturday, we are rolling out a sixth episode of What a Day, doing a deeper dive on the biggest stories of the week and answering the questions, how did we get here? Hosted by Erin Ryan of Hysteria and Max Fisher from Offline, our first episode will dive into the immigration deal in Congress, so make sure to tune in to the What a Day feed and let us know what you think. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Pay teachers a living wage. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah! 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And tell your friends to listen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just how to tune into a three point contest like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

[spoken together] And we are ready for the Megan Thee Stallion experience. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh my God, I can’t wait. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Am I ready? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yes, you’re ready. 

 

I feel like I have to get in the gym. I have to hydrate. I have to like prepare. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I mean, you do. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: For the Megan Thee Stallion experience. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, because it does require hotties and stallions. So get ready. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I have to [?] up, you got to be like, listen, listen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Priyanka said I have research to do. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I gotta put in some work before I’m prepared. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh, God. [music break]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.