First Thing: Facebook ‘harms children, stokes division, weakens democracy’ – The Guardian

Good morning.

In an explosive testimony to US lawmakers, a former Facebook employee has claimed the social media company puts its multibillion annual profits “before people”, harms children and is destabilising democracies.

Frances Haugen said the company did not have enough staff to keep the platform safe and was “fanning” ethnic violence in developing countries. She told senators that Facebook knew its systems led teenagers to anorexia-related content and said young children could be intentionally targeted with content promoting the eating disorder.

Meanwhile, she has filed at least eight complaints with the US financial watchdog accusing the social network of serially misleading investors about its approach to safety and the size of its audience.

  • Whistleblower goes public. Haugen appeared in Washington after after coming forward as the source of revelations that Facebook knew Instagram was damaging teenagers’ mental health.

  • Is Facebook untouchable? Unlike past hearings derailed by partisan bickering, lawmakers from both sides appeared to agree on the need for new laws to reform how Facebook targets users and amplifies content.

  • English content moderation bias. She said 87% of misinformation spending at Facebook was on English content despite only 9% of users being English-speakers.

Top Trump aides expected to defy subpoena in Capitol probe

Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, with Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Traverse City, Michigan in November last year. Meadows is of special interest to the select committee.
Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, with Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Traverse City, Michigan, in November 2020. Meadows is of special interest to the select committee. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is among ex-aides of the-then president expected to resist requests for documents and testimonies related to the 6 January Capitol attack, a source familiar with the matter said.

Deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, strategist Steve Bannon and defense department aide Kash Patel – as well as Meadows – are expected to resist the select committee orders because Donald Trump is preparing to direct them to do so, the source claimed.

The basis for Trump’s pressing aides to not cooperate is being mounted on grounds of executive privilege, the source said, over allegations that sensitive conversations about what he knew in advance of plans to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory should remain secret.

  • Total non-compliance? The source suggested access to some emails or call records demanded by the committee might be waived, with it unclear whether Trump would push aides to defy all elements of the subpoenas.

  • How to enforce. House select committee investigators now face deciding whether to make a criminal referral to the justice department after tomorrow’s deadline for documents or next week’s crunch testimony date.

Officials knew of California oil spill 12 hours before cleanup

An aerial view of environmental oil spill cleanup crews after a major oil spill at Huntington Beach.
An aerial view of environmental oil spill cleanup crews after a major oil spill at Huntington Beach. Photograph: Allen J Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Rex/Shutterstock

Authorities face serious questions over how much damage could have been prevented after 126,000 gallons of crude seeped into the Huntington Beach ocean after more than half a day passed between notification and response.

It was said yesterday that the pipeline, which is connected to a nearby platform owned by Houston-based company Amplify Energy Corp, had been “laterally displaced” by about 105ft, though the cause had not yet been determined.

The Orange county district attorney, Todd Spitzer, is assessing whether state charges can be brought against the company even though the leak occurred in waters overseen by the US government. Other potential criminal investigations were being pursued by three separate agencies, according to officials.

  • The damage grows. At least 4,788 gallons of oil has been removed from the water, with roughly 15.7 miles of coastline contaminated. Beaches in Huntington, Laguna and Newport Harbor could remain closed for months.

  • Economical with the truth? Martyn Willsher, the CEO of Amplify Energy, said the company discovered the spill on Saturday morning. But state oil spill records reportedly show that the spill was sighted on Friday evening.

Tensions rise between China and Taiwan

Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill on Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China.
Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill on Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China. Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

China will be capable of mounting a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025, the island’s defence minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, has said, describing current tensions as the worst in 40 years after Beijing sent about 150 warplanes into its neighbour’s air defence zone over four days beginning on Friday.

The record escalation of its grey zone military activity towards the island, which it claims is a province of China, led Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, to say his country would not be “adventurists” but would do “whatever it takes” to defend itself.

Nations have various policies laying out the level of recognition their governments afford Beijing’s policy. The US and Australia acknowledge but do not recognise Beijing’s claim over Taiwan.

  • Defense spending. Taiwan’s legislature is reviewing a T$240bn ($8.6bn) special defense budget bill, of which about two-thirds would be spent on anti-ship weapons such as land-based missile systems and hi-tech ships.

  • US diplomacy. The president, Joe Biden, said he had spoken with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. “We made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,“ he said obliquely.

In other news …

The streaming revolution has created a gold rush for artists’ royalty rights, and for ageing stars it is increasingly forming an important part of estate planning.
The streaming revolution has created a gold rush for artists’ royalty rights. Photograph: Franziska Krug/Getty Images
  • Tina Turner is the latest rock legend to cash in on the rocketing value of evergreen hits in the streaming era, selling the rights to her six-decade music catalogue, including hit What’s Love Got to Do With It.

  • Federal agents raided the offices of a New York City police union and the home of its leader who has clashed with officials over incendiary tweets, including posting papers pertaining to the arrest of the mayor’s daughter.

  • The fossil fuel industry gets subsidies of $11m every minute, according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund. It found the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by $5.9tn in 2020.

  • Singapore has trialled patrol robots warning people engaging in “undesirable social behaviour”, as an arsenal of surveillance technology in the tightly controlled city-state fuelling privacy concerns grows.

Stat of the day: some dogs can remember over 100 names

Max from Hungary, one of the gifted dogs taking part in the study, and owner Ildiko.
Max from Hungary, one of the gifted dogs taking part in the study, with owner Ildiko. Photograph: Cooper Photo/PA

Most dogs can comprehend some commands, but learning the names of items appears to be a very different task – with the majority unable to master the skill. In a study, however, Max (Hungary), Gaia (Brazil), Nalani (Netherlands), Squall (US), Whisky (Norway), and Rico (Spain) made the cut after proving they knew the names of more than 28 toys, with some knowing more than 100 as part of the Genius Dog Challenge, a series of experiments.

Don’t miss this: the rise of the unregulated life coach industry

‘I still harbor a lot of anger and disappointment.’
‘I still harbor a lot of anger and disappointment.’ Illustration: Maria Medem/The Guardian

The rapid rise of the life coach sector, and particularly some companies within it, raises questions over whether coaches are empowering their clients with the tools and support they need; or if they are being sold an unattainable fantasy. Brooke Castillo, once a small-time self-help guru, has become the reigning industry queen thanks to savvy marketing, a fusion of new age therapyspeak and girlboss rhetoric, and the parasocial relationship she cultivates with listeners to her popular podcast.

Climate check: Google Maps to show lowest carbon car route

‘Travelling by car is one of the more carbon-intensive choices people make on a daily basis,’ Google’s CEO said.
‘Travelling by car is one of the more carbon-intensive choices people make on a daily basis,’ Google’s CEO said. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

A new Google Maps product launches today in the US and will allow motorists to select the route with the lowest carbon emissions once factors such as traffic and road inclines are accounted for. Also from today, users around the world will be able to view the carbon emissions per seat for flights and browse lower carbon options. Hotel searches will also include information on establishment’s sustainability policies.

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Last Thing: Welsh ‘dragon’ dinosaur, size of chicken, discovered

Artist’s depiction of how the dinosaur Pendraig milnerae – meaning chief dragon – might have looked.
Artist’s depiction of how the dinosaur Pendraig milnerae – meaning chief dragon – might have looked. Photograph: © James Robbins

Found in a south Wales quarry, a dinosaur distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex but with a body the size of a chicken has been identified as the oldest theropod – a group that includes T rex and modern birds – ever unearthed in the UK. Thought to have lived between 200m and 215m years ago during the Late Triassic period, the discovery of the new carnivore species could also provide evidence for potential island dwarfism.

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