THE BUZZ — TROUBLE AT 1 HACKER WAY: We’re old enough to remember the era when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a golden boy to be courted in American politics. Zuck’s hoodied profile was once so hip that then-President Barack Obama made a trip to Facebook’s Bay Area headquarters just to hold a town hall meeting, and talk about the company’s deep value to American democracy.
Facebook “is helping to revolutionize how people get information, … how they’re connecting with each other,” Obama said during that 2011 jaunt to Silicon Valley, where he gushed that “what Facebook allows us to do is to make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; we’re in a dialogue.”
That prompted buzz that the tech wunderkind might even one day run for president — and that if he didn’t, his COO might harbor similar ambitions. Even former President Donald Trump, as late as last year, lauded Zuckerberg as doing a “helluva job.”
“He’s gonna run for president,” Trump predicted. “That wouldn’t be too frightening.”
These days, Zuckerberg is regularly compared to a Big Tobacco exec, and Facebook — the Menlo Park-based social media giant that he has headed for half of his life, an extraordinary tenure for any CEO — is facing what’s being called the biggest crisis in its 17-year-history.
The trauma and turmoil at 1 Hacker Way, where the big thumbs-up ‘Like’ sign is still a big tourist selfie draw right off the Bayshore Freeway, was generated by brutal headlines this week from the bombshell release of internal documents taken by whistleblower Frances Haugen before she left the company.
WHISTLEBLOWER: The so-called Facebook Papers include internal message board threads, emails, project memos, strategy plans and presentations and the company’s own damning research, which Haugen captured by snapping photos of her computer screen. POLITICO and 16 other American news organizations are publishing stories this week based on the documents.
As POLITICO’s Leah Nylen reports, Haugen’s documentation shows “in granular detail how the world’s largest social network views its power in the market, at a moment when it faces growing pressure from governments in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The documents portray Facebook employees touting its dominance in their internal presentations — contradicting the company’s own public assertions and providing potential fuel for antitrust authorities and lawmakers scrutinizing the social network’s sway over the market.”
The trove of internal documents have provided “a rarely seen window into the company and often reflect matters of conscience bearing down on many of Facebook’s more than 60,000 workers,’’ as POLITICO’s John Hendel writes.
“Never forget the day Trump rode down the escalator in 2015, called for a ban on Muslims entering the US, we determined that it violated our policies, and yet we explicitly overrode the policy and didn’t take the video down. There is a straight line that can be drawn from that day to today, one of the darkest days in the history of democracy,’’ wrote one Facebook employee in response to Zuckerberg and Chief Tech Officer Mike Schroepfer following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. “History will not judge us kindly.”
Among the most scandalous revelations: Zuckerberg caved to demands from the Vietnamese government and let celebrities and politicians break the platform’s rules with impunity. The company also allowed misinformation about the 2020 U.S. election falsehoods to metastasize, opening the door for the events of Jan. 6, as POLITICO’s Alexandra S. Levine reports.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite the avalanche of bad headlines, Zuckerberg and his company on Monday reported sharply “higher quarterly profits, buoyed by strong advertising revenue,’’ CBS News reported. In other words, all this scrutiny hasn’t hurt Facebook’s bottom line — yet.
Axios’ Sarah Fisher tweeted news of Zuckerberg’s third quarter earnings call Monday with reporters, saying that he announced one major change: that Facebook moving forward will be “retooling” to make “serving young adults the north star, rather than optimizing for older people.”
Moving away from Boomers to the 18-29 crowd may shift the Facebook narrative, but it won’t erase the company’s present debacle. And the real bottom line is how much these documents will tarnish not only this company, but the whole gleaming Silicon Valley.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Mark Zuckerberg has unilateral control over 3 billion people. There is no will at the top to make sure these systems are run in an adequately safe way.” Haugen testifies Monday to U.K. lawmakers.
TWEET OF THE DAY: Jackie Speier @RepSpeier: “Based on new reporting on all the planning into Jan 6 —what’s the difference between a tin pot dictator and Donald Trump? Nothing.’
BONUS TOTD: Doug Sovern @SovernNation: “That was a once-every-125-years storm that walloped SF Bay Area (we hope so anyway!). 16″ of rain atop Mt. Tam in 48 hrs! 9″ at 1 @NWSBayArea #Oakland hills reporting gauge. Almost 10″ in Santa Cruz mountains. 11″ in Napa Co. No one alive has ever seen an October storm like that.”
WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.
WHOA — “Judge grants teen’s restraining order against Richmond police chief and husband who say she is being sex trafficked,” by the SF Chronicle’s Matthias Gafni: “In an emotional restraining order hearing Monday, the police chief of Richmond and her husband, an Oakland sergeant, agreed to stay away for two years from a female relative — an 18-year-old woman the couple believe is being sex trafficked by an older man who faces charges in the matter.”
TROUBLE ON THE SET — “Alec Baldwin prop gun shooting: What search warrant reveals,” by the LA Times’ Wendy Lee and Amy Kaufman: “In the newly released document obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday night, Souza said the weapon had been described to him as a ‘cold gun,’ meaning it did not have any live rounds. But the gun discharged, striking Hutchins in her chest and Souza in his right shoulder, according to a Santa Fe County, N.M., sheriff’s detective’s affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.”
CHRISTMAS CRISIS — “California Christmas trees could be harder to find, more expensive this year. Here’s why,” by The Sac Bee’s David Lightman: “It’s as though several of the crises that have plagued the country over the past few years have all come together for one Grinch-like performance in the Christmas tree world.”
OFF TO GLASGOW — Newsom and 15 state lawmakers to attend U.N. climate talks, by POLITICO’s Debra Kahn: Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to Glasgow, Scotland, next week to attend U.N. climate talks, along with a delegation of nearly two dozen lawmakers and state officials. Newsom’s office announced Monday he would attend the international climate negotiations to highlight California’s emissions-cutting policies and call for more action from other governments.
“While some leaders are still debating the urgency of climate action, California has become a working model for how to aggressively fight the climate crisis while bolstering the clean economy,” his office said in a statement. “Though California has made remarkable progress, the Governor will make the case that the state needs national and international partners to join us in committing to safeguard our future.”
TAXES AND THE BILLIONAIRES — “Elon’s Billions and an Unprecedented Wealth Tax,” by Puck’s Theodore Schleifer: “The world’s richest man is stepping up his public displays of generosity, just as a controversial new wealth tax becomes a tantalizing possibility this week in Kyrsten Sinema’s Washington.”
MOVING ON — State Auditor Elaine Howle to retire after 21 years, by POLITICO’s Alex Nieves: Howle plans to officially step down from the position at the end of the year, just before her current 4-year term ends in January. The California State Auditor’s office has played a major role in state politics under Howle’s leadership, exposing dysfunction within state departments ranging from unemployment system failures and college admission scandals to bungled education and housing funding. Newsom will appoint Howle’s successor from a group of three candidates nominated by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
ROLLING IN DOUGH — “California will have another ‘historic budget surplus’ next year, Gov. Gavin Newsom says,” via The Sac Bee’s Sophia Bollag: Newsom said he’ll propose using next year’s surplus to pay down $11.3 billion in pension obligations, but didn’t give further details. In addition to a surplus for next year’s budget, Newsom said California has already collected $14 billion more in tax revenue than expected for the current budget year.
— “With almost 140,000 backlogged claims, EDD is grilled by California lawmakers on unemployment benefits fiascoes,” by the SF Chronicle’s Carolyn Said: “As the auditor’s reports said — and thousand of frustrated Californians experienced — EDD’s phone lines were clogged, its claims processing was slow, and it paid out some $20 billion to fraudsters.”
HEADED YOUR WAY — “California rainstorm spurs flood advisory in L.A. County after setting records in north,’’ via the LA Times’ Hayley Smith, Luke Money, Anita Chabria and Susanne Rust: “Los Angeles County is under a flood advisory until 4 p.m., officials said, as periodic heavy rain could swamp roadways and potentially trigger minor mudslides in recent burn areas. The atmospheric river storm could dump up to an inch and a half of rain on downtown L.A.”
THE AFTERMATH — “Mudslides Can Be Dangerous And Destructive. This Is How You Can Prepare,’’ by LAist’s Jacob Margolis: If you’re curious about the risk for your area, the USGS has a dedicated map that might help. And if you live in L.A. County, the Department of Public Works forecasts debris and mudflow threats to different basins across the region when it rains.
— “The share of vacant homes in the Bay Area has decreased. Is that a good thing?” by the SF Chronicle’s Susie Neilson: “Vacancy rates have fallen in six out of the Bay Area’s nine counties since 2010. However, vacancies increased slightly in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.”
SKELTON SPEAKS — “California spending billions on water projects,’’ opines the LA Times’ George Skelton: “State politicians have done something laudable, and it has gone unheralded. They haven’t even bragged about it themselves. So, here’s some heralding. They’ve authorized spending about $5 billion on drought-related water projects without charging it on the credit card. They’re going to pay cash. That will save taxpayers roughly twice the projects’ cost for tacked-on interest.”
UH OH — “Three California teens developed severe psychiatric symptoms after COVID. Here’s what scientists say about the cases,’’ by the SF Chronicle’s Nanette Asimov: A study of the three, published Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology, is the first to examine how rogue antibodies can attack the brains of pediatric patients who previously tested positive for COVID.
HEALTH OR PAYCHECK? — “S.F. could be first to mandate paid sick leave for house cleaners, nannies,” by the SF Chronicle’s Carolyn Said: “The measure, called ‘Domestic workers equal access to paid sick leave,’ would establish a portable paid sick leave benefit that would allow people who work for multiple households to earn slivers of paid sick leave from each employer and then consolidate them.”
— “America’s Supply Chain Collides With California’s Nimbyism,” opines Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel: “A regulation at the Port of Long Beach has clogged national deliveries. It is emblematic of the state’s impasse on housing and other development.”
BORDER — “Border agents in Facebook groups with bigoted posts saw little discipline,” by the LA Times’ Andrea Castillo: “Most of the Customs and Border Protection agents who participated in secretive social media groups featuring violent, bigoted posts against migrants and members of Congress received significantly watered down discipline measures, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. House of Representatives.”
PADILLA ON POINT — “For the first Latino senator from California, citizenship for undocumented immigrants is personal,’’ By Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti: “In the neighborhood where Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) grew up, undocumented immigrants have long occupied the aging bungalows and faded campers that jam up against roaring freeways. ‘Ilegales,’ his father, Santos Padilla, now 80 and a naturalized U.S. citizen, said with a sweep of his hand following Mass one recent Sunday when asked how he and his late wife arrived in the United States. ‘Like everyone.’”
— “Editorial: In Los Angeles, political meddling poisons redistricting,” via the LA Times Editorial Board: “The City Council, not the commission, has the final say on the district maps. This quasi-independent system was approved by voters in 1999 before actually independent redistricting became more widely embraced.”
— “Josh Gottheimer’s obstructionist crew raised millions during showdown with Nancy Pelosi,” by The Intercept’s Sara Sirota: “Wealthy donors rushed funds to conservative Democrats after they threatened to torpedo the Build Back Better plan.”
TESLA’S TRILLION — “Tesla Crosses $1 Trillion Value After Hertz Deal,” by The NYT’s Neal E. Boudette and Niraj Chokshi: “The order, to be fulfilled between now and the end of next year, is a sign of the growing momentum in the shift toward electric cars.”
— “Elon Musk’s Wealth Is Soaring Past A Quarter Trillion Dollars,” by Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal: “He’s leaving the second-richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos, in the dust.”
— Facebook staff complained for years about their lobbyists’ power, by POLITICO’s Emily Birnbaum: “‘Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors when enforcing content policy,’ a data scientist at the company wrote in a December 2020 presentation.”
SHOOTING SCENE — “This ‘Rust’ scene led to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins,” by the LA Times’ Sonaiya Kelley: “As further details emerge about a lack of safety protocols that led to the tragic accidental firing of a prop gun on the New Mexico set of “Rust,” a portion of the script obtained by The Times depicts the scene in question.”
— “Free Bay Area screenings of ‘Shang-Chi’ seek to improve Asian American, Pacific Islander visibility,” by the SF Chronicle’s Lauren Hernández.
— “Disneyland raises ticket prices for most types of admission,” by the OC Register’s Brady MacDonald.
— “Oakland sends social equity marijuana licensees to collections over unpaid loans,” by Marijuana Business Daily’s John Schroyer: “The situation illustrates both how difficult it has become for mom-and-pop businesses to succeed in California’s legal marijuana industry and the tenuous nature of social equity companies.”
— “Lil’ Kim Announces Cannabis Brand ‘aphrodisiac’ With superbad inc.,” by Forbes’ Lindsey Bartlett: “The new weed line will be called aphrodisiac and it’s being produced in partnership with superbad inc. Lil’ Kim’s aphrodisiac will be available in California beginning in 2022. Plan to see it on shelves for purchase within Q1 of next year, with a launch date to-be-announced soon.”
BACKSTORY — “How Patrick Soon-Shiong Made His Fortune Before Buying the L.A. Times,” by the New Yorker’s Stephen Witt: “In recent years, Soon-Shiong has emerged as one of Los Angeles’s most prominent civic leaders. He paid five hundred million dollars for the L.A. Times, along with its sister paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune—double what Jeff Bezos spent to buy the Washington Post, which had three times the number of subscribers.”
— “San Jose: One rescued from Guadalupe River during Bay Area storm,” by The Mercury News’ Summer Lin.
— “Judge: San Diego Doesn’t Know Climate Impact of Infrastructure Projects,” by the Voice of San Diego’s MacKenzie Elmer: “The city isn’t tracking, and therefore attempting to reduce, tons of planet-warming gases created by infrastructure projects.”
— “Who is this far-right group that’s been disrupting council meetings for months,” by The Mercury News’ Grace Hase.
— “Sacramento Republic’s all-time leading scorer says he’s retiring after Saturday’s game,” by The Sac Bee’s James Patrick.
— “Time running out for forces trying to stop Seeno from taking over redevelopment of Concord Naval Weapons site,” by The Mercury News’ Shomik Mukherjee.
Isabelle Bock of Rep. Salud Carbajal’s (D-Calif.) office … Eric Weinstein
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