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October 05, 2021
What A Day
Facebook's Status: It's Complicated

In This Episode

  • Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were offline for six hours yesterday in what’s been called the most sustained and the largest outage for the company in recent memory. It came a day after CBS aired an interview with a Facebook whistleblower, and on the same day the company filed a dismissal in an anti-trust lawsuit by the federal government.
  • The latest Supreme Court term began, yesterday, and there is a lot to keep our eyes on with the current 6-3 conservative majority. The court is going to hear arguably the most important 2nd Amendment case since at least 2008, possibly the most impactful reproductive health ruling in decades, and more.
  • And in headlines: union members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees voted to authorize a strike, Senate Republicans vow to not raise the country’s debt ceiling, and Clint Eastwood won a $6.1 million lawsuit against a CBD company.

 

Show Notes 

 

 

 

Transcript

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, October 5th. I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we didn’t even notice the Facebook outage because we were busy doing something called ‘living in the present.’

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I was on a beautiful mountain, so I was completely unplugged the whole time.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Please clap.

 

Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, we’re going to highlight some of the most important cases that are headed to the Supreme Court. Plus, the union for many film and TV crew members overwhelmingly said yes to authorizing a strike.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But first, yesterday was an insane day for Facebook following an already tumultuous few weeks—or months or years, depending on how you’re measuring it.

 

[news clip] But Jake, I want to start with this because I’m trying to fire up Facebook here on my phone, and no dice. So what’s up with this outage?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I love that. Sounds like my parents trying to use their phones. That’s how one MSNBC anchor was handling this big Facebook outage across the globe for much of Monday. And this hour’s-long outage came after weeks of revelations about Facebook from a series of Wall Street Journal stories. Some of that we’ve talked about on the show before, but Gideon, let’s start trying to piece together this train wreck with the outage first. So what do we know as of record time Monday night?

 

Gideon Resnick: Train wreck is definitely right. So some of the first reported issues with Facebook and its apps, namely Instagram and WhatsApp, were around 11:40 a.m. Eastern, and it took about six hours actually for the sites to even begin to start coming back online. The Washington Post referred to it as the most sustained and the largest outage for Facebook in at very least recent memory. And beyond the jokes about all of this throughout the day, that we have seen and taken part in, there are really billions who rely on WhatsApp throughout the world for all kinds of communication, people here talking to family members abroad, not to mention business disruptions that this caused and more pedestrian things like smart TVs and other devices that people use Facebook log-ins to get into. There is a big domino effect here. And many people said that this was for all of those reasons, yet another example of why this company should be broken up already. We’re going to get to news on that part in just a moment.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely. So at this point, what do we know about why it actually went offline?

 

Gideon Resnick: That is the question, right, so as of record time, we don’t have a full, full accounting of what all went on yesterday, but beginning with yesterday afternoon, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer said that there were quote “networking issues” and to be clear, this was all going well beyond difficulties for just users. So, for example, the Post reported that Facebook’s own internal communications platform was down for a majority of the day, and the Times also reported that at one point during the day, employees were not able to physically even enter the building. Mike Isaac from the Times tweeted that Facebook sent a small team to one of Facebook’s California data centers to try and actually manually reset the servers—literally like the blowing on the N64 cartridge of fixing the problem.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Beautiful analogy.

 

Gideon Resnick: Thank you. It is dated, but it’ll hit. And the Washington Post has a more helpful graphic on the technical side of understanding all the possible reasons that we can link to in our show notes. But as of this particular time, experts don’t seem to think that this was an external hack, but rather an issue with the company’s server computers. And it really was so severe that later in the evening, Zuckerberg himself apologized for the outage.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it was pretty dramatic, right? And not great timing. This also happened right after a 60 Minutes segment from Sunday, where the source behind that series of Wall Street Journal articles was actually revealed. So what were some of the takeaways there?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So first off, for those who haven’t seen it yet, the whistleblower, previously known as “Sean” revealed herself to be Francis Haugen, and she is a product manager who had previously worked on the civic misinformation team at Facebook before leaving earlier this year.

 

[clip of Frances Haugen] Facebook has demonstrated they cannot act independently. Facebook over and over again has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety. I’m hoping that this will have had a big enough impact on the world that they get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations into place.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so as she alluded to there, one of the takeaways actually from how Haugen seemed to be that she leaked these documents in order to prompt change at the company, not to destroy it. Apparently, prior to leaving, one of the last things she wrote to her colleagues was quote, “I love Facebook, I want to save it.” We can link to that story from The Wall Street Journal as well. And today, Haugen is set to testify to Congress, specifically on Facebook’s negative effects on young users. She has also sought federal whistleblower protection, so this feels like potentially the beginning of this whole saga.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, definitely. There’s surely more to come there. And yesterday, if you can believe it amidst all of this, Facebook also filed a motion to dismiss the latest Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit, which is just, like, unbelievable.

 

Gideon Resnick: It is, like almost impressively galling in a way to have this land on this day of all days. So we’ve talked about this suit before, but as a quick reminder, earlier this year, a federal judge basically said that the FTC in its first lawsuit hadn’t established, hadn’t gathered all the evidence to prove that Facebook was an illegal monopoly. And so the FTC refiled in August, and the expectation was that Facebook would try to get this dismissed. But man, did it land on a crazy day for that to happen. The judge reportedly has until November to respond to the motion to dismiss. So that is some of the whirlwind of the day and weeks in Facebook fiascos. We’ll get back to all of that quite soon. But Josie, also the latest Supreme Court term began yesterday, and there’s a lot to keep our eyes on there to say the very least. Walk us through it.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so it’s that time again, Supreme Court season is upon us. This is like my World Series, my Super Bowl. So this time last year, Justice Ginsburg had just passed away—she died in the middle of September—and Amy Coney Barrett was well on her way to taking her seat on the court.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes, that was quite an insane time. And going back further, just a few years ago, the court kind of felt solidly liberal as far as courts go. But now we’re looking at a 6-3 conservative majority, with a very stubborn 83-year old Stephen Breyer refusing to budge. So that’s quite an ominous way to begin this particular season.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s hard to know what to expect these next few months and really these next few years, but I can pretty much guess it will be worse than what we’ve seen recently. And as WAD’s resident lawyer-esque—meaning I went to law school, I passed the bar but then I decided to never actually practice law, I just decided to get a lot of debt for no reason—I’m here to tell you what to look out for in the upcoming term.

 

Gideon Resnick: Trust me, you are light years more of an expert than I could ever dream to be and I am also in debt without any of the expertise. OK, so the first issue that people should be paying attention to here pertains to firearms.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. So early next month, the court is going to hear New York State Rifle Pistol Association Incorporated vs. Bruen—real incredible name there. It’s arguably the most important 2nd Amendment case since at least 2008, and the case is going to rule on the constitutionality of a New York state law that prohibits carrying a handgun outside the home without a license. But it’s not actually just the license requirement that’s at issue, it’s the fact that in New York, it’s really hard to get a license because everyone that wants a permit has to demonstrate that they have, quote, “proper cause to carry a gun.” And in New York, a general interest in self-protection is not sufficient proper cause—you can’t just have it for self-defense, you can’t just have it because maybe one day you’ll need it. So the court will examine whether the denial of a license for self-defense violates the Second Amendment, and it’s a pretty big deal in terms of Second Amendment jurisprudence.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And then there is also this case pertaining to reproductive rights that is coming up on December 1st. A lot of people have definitely been paying attention to this, I think, for good reason. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the details are of that?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So we have talked on here about the decision/kind of non-decision that the court made last month in the Texas case. This case is Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And it’s sure to be one of, if not the very most, impactful case this year. In fact, it’s very possible this is the most important reproductive health ruling that many of us have seen in decades.

 

Gideon Resnick: Wow.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The case is about a law passed in Mississippi back in 2018 called the Gestational Age Act, and it prohibits all abortions, with very few exceptions, after 15 weeks gestational age. For perspective, that’s, you know, about 5 to 10 weeks before the ban in Roe v. Wade. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is tragically, but perhaps not surprisingly, the only licensed abortion facility in Mississippi, and it challenged the law since it does explicitly violate Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, Mississippi has specifically requested that the court take this opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as 1992’s Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. The court will consider whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s insane. It’s really, really insane.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It really is.

 

Gideon Resnick: Another one that’s coming up is US vs. Tsarnaev. That is a case about one of the brothers that committed the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. So Tsarnaev was already sentenced to death for his participation but where does the Supreme Court actually come into the picture here Josie?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So he had been sentenced to death and then his sentence was overturned, so he is currently serving life without parole instead. The Supreme Court’s going to examine that sentence. An appeals court vacated his death sentence after it found that the lower court should have asked potential jurors more explicitly what coverage they’ve seen about the case to make sure that they weren’t biased against the defendant. So this is a really interesting one because in the age of social media and super accessible news everywhere we turn, how can we expect jurors to stay completely impartial in major cases like this one? And is an impartial jury really possible the way it used to be? So this is a fascinating case with obviously, you know, huge implications. And though they’re not actually discussing whether or not the death penalty is constitutional or not, we can just theoretically hope that maybe the Supreme Court will decide to just abolish the death penalty while they’re at it. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I guess anything’s possible.

 

Gideon Resnick: That would be an upside to many, many downsides that we have talked about for sure. And there are plenty more cases to follow. So where should people go to get an actual rundown of everything that the Supreme Court is going to take on this session?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So if you’re looking for progressive, easy to understand, and often really hilarious coverage of the Supreme Court and what exactly it’s up to, you should check out ballsandstrikes dot org. It’s a new website that’s doing a really great job of making the court accessible. I’ll have an article up on the site today about an important case the court heard yesterday, an oral argument, about what qualifies someone as a career criminal. And we’ll have a link in our show notes. So yeah, check it out. And that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Gideon Resnick:  Let’s wrap up with some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The results of the strike authorization vote by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, came in yesterday with members voting overwhelmingly to approve a strike if the union can’t get major studios to agree to desperately needed concessions. IATSE wants higher pay, better working conditions, and better benefits for its members. Almost 90% of eligible IATSE workers participated, with more than 98% voicing their willingness to support a strike. So here’s another way to look at those numbers, from camera technician Alaina McManus of Local 600.

 

Alaina McManus: Out of over 53,000 people, only about 700 voted no.

 

Gideon Resnick: Wow.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The landslide result will give leverage to IATSE as it tries to negotiate a three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. For the first time in months, AMPTP has agreed to return to the bargaining table today. Here’s local 871’s Alison Golub, a writer’s assistant who we spoke with last week on what lies ahead and the significance of the vote.

 

Alison Golub: In the next two weeks, there will either be a deal or a strike, and we’ll see how it goes. But it’s very exciting and it’s a great show of solidarity and support throughout. You know, if you’re not an entertainment industry worker, this still can affect you greatly because it shows that worker solidarity is something that is possible in America.

 

Gideon Resnick: Indeed. Solidarity to all of them. President Biden’s legislative agenda is still on hold while Democrats continue to negotiate their massive bill to fund social programs and a trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill to refurbish roads, bridges, and build better broadband. The House was expected to vote on the infrastructure bill last week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could not secure enough votes in her party for it to pass. Progressive Democrats held firm in saying that they just would not vote for the bill if it did not go in tandem with the Democratic-led social spending package. That Build Back Better bill includes health care, child care, and climate programs—some things we should consider investing in—but it won’t pass without the support of Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema, the two Democratic senators whose bodies have evolved to feed exclusively on liberal rage. This is what Biden had to say about the situation yesterday when he spoke at the White House:

 

[clip of President Biden] We’ve been able to close a deal on 99% of my party. [chuckles] Two, two people. That’s still under way.

 

Gideon Resnick: You can tell he is thrilled, like the rest of us. There is no hard deadline for passing the bills, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he aims to pass them both by the end of October—the spookiest treat of them all.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Meanwhile, the U.S. is still on the brink of hitting its borrowing limit—me too—because Senate Republicans have yet to agree on raising the dreaded debt ceiling. Without action, the government is likely to run out of cash by October 18th, and Republicans have said they will block any vote to raise the limit. Yesterday, President Biden said he could not guarantee the debt ceiling would be raised in the next few weeks, and he slammed Republicans for their hypocritical opposition.

 

[clip of President Biden] The reason we have to raise the debt limit is in part because of the reckless tax and spending policies under the previous Trump administration. In four years, they incurred, that incurred nearly eight trillion dollars—in four years, eight trillion dollars—in additional debt, in bills we have to now pay off.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Republicans argue Democrats should handle the debt ceiling through reconciliation without their support, but Dems believe that Republicans should share the responsibility in handling the government’s debt. Imagine that. Schumer said he wants action on the debt ceiling this week and has set a vote for Wednesday. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not plan on making things easy for the Democrats—something so strange, he’s usually so good at that—and he could block the effort through a procedural motion.

 

Gideon Resnick: I hope people listening are enjoying these same updates over the last, like three or four months.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.

 

Gideon Resnick: Bad news for all of us who assumed that it was safe to lie about 91-year olds on the internet: Clint Eastwood has won a $6.1 million lawsuit against a deceitful CBD company. So last year, Eastwood filed two federal suits against a number of CBD companies that have used his name and likeness in fake online news stories to make it seem like he had endorsed their products. After a Lithuanian company failed to respond to a summons, the judge awarded millions to Eastwood in a default judgment. That is the most success Clint has had with an empty chair since he talked to one on live TV and earned the love and respect of an entire nation. Zoomers will not remember. Eastwood said in a statement quote, “I am pleased with the court’s ruling and believe this judgment sends a powerful message to other online scammers who might try to illegally use someone’s name and reputation to sell their products.” Let that be a warning to anyone who tries to ruin Clint Eastwood’s reputation as the least chill man in Hollywood. He will not be chill about it.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: If you have not seen Clint Eastwood talk to a chair on stage at the RNC in 2012, please, please go to YouTube right now and look it up. It is surreal and amazing.

 

Gideon Resnick: I second that, and if you have not watched Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, it is also surreal and amazing.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t know about that advice, but I can tell you my advice is good.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I agree with that. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, converse with a wooden chair, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading, and not just criminally fraudulent ads for Clint Eastwood CBD gummies like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

[together] And log onto nature instead of Facebook.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m so good at the outdoors. Love it out there, in the grass, trees.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes. What are other outdoor things that we know and love? Soil? Can’t get enough. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer, with production help from Jocey Coffman. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.