×

Joe Biden Slams Facebook, Calls for Revoking U.S. Law Shielding Internet Companies From Liability for Speech

Joe Biden, who is campaigning for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, believes internet companies like Facebook should not have legal protections covering speech posted to their platforms by individual users — a change to existing U.S. law that would have sweeping implications.

The former vice president under President Obama, in an interview with the New York Times published Friday, said that Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act “should be revoked, immediately should be revoked” because Facebook “is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy.”

Last fall, Facebook drew fire — from Biden and others including screenwriter Aaron Sorkin — for running an ad bought on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign that asserted without evidence that Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a $1 billion bribe to not investigate his son. In the wake of the controversy, Facebook has refused to back off its policy of not fact-checking political ads.

In the Times interview, Biden singled out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying, “I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem.” He called Facebook’s stance regarding regulation of speech on the platform “totally irresponsible” and said Zuckerberg and his company should be subject to “civil liability” for false and damaging statements allowed on Facebook the same way traditional publishers are.

Popular on Variety

Facebook declined to comment on Biden’s remarks specifically, but a rep pointed to testimony of Facebook VP of global policy management Monika Bickert at a House subcommittee hearing last week. In an exchange with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Bickert said in part, “Section 230 does provide us certain protections; the most important from my standpoint is the ability for us to go after abuse on our platform but separately it is also an important mechanism for people who use the internet to be able to post to platforms like Facebook.”

Biden’s declaration that Section 230 should be revoked set off alarm bells among tech-policy watchers — who warned that removing that provision would return the internet to an all-or-nothing state in terms of managing speech.

Biden “has it wrong in almost every way when it comes to his criticism of Section 230,” Free Press senior policy counsel Gaurav Laroia said in a statement.

According to Section 230 of the act, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Section 230 provides liability protections to internet platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for what users say on those platforms and also “explicitly allows platforms to moderate those spaces as they wish,” Laroia continued. “Repealing Section 230 as Biden recommends would return us to the world of the early and mid-’90s, when the law gave internet companies a choice — either allow nearly all speech and posts, including hate speech and falsehoods, with few rules and nearly no moderation, or assume editorial and legal responsibility for every single post or utterance on their sites.”

Any changes to Section 230, according to Laroia, “should be undertaken carefully and cautiously with an eye to protecting marginalized and vulnerable communities — and with an understanding that it’s the First Amendment, not Section 230, that allows individuals to engage in the speech of their choosing, for good and for ill.”

More Digital

  • Vudu

    NBCUniversal in Talks to Buy Walmart's Vudu

    Comcast’s NBCUniversal is looking to add some Vudu into its streaming-video mix. The media conglomerate is in talks to buy Vudu, the Walmart-owned entertainment rental, download and free-streaming service, sources confirm to Variety. It’s unclear what the terms of the pact would be or the timing. News of NBCU’s interest in Vudu was first reported [...]

  • Tubi

    Fox in Talks to Acquire Free-Streaming Service Tubi for Over $500 Million (Report)

    Fox Corp. is in discussions about acquiring Tubi, the ad-supported free streaming service, in a deal worth more than $500 million, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing anonymous sources. With Tubi, Rupert Murdoch’s TV broadcasting and cable company would be adding a dedicated streaming component — offering over 20,000 older TV shows and [...]

  • Zombies 2 Disney Channel

    How Disney Channel's 'Zombies 2' Production Team Made Monsters Kid-Friendly

    Traditionally spooky creatures like zombies and werewolves get the Disney treatment in “Zombies 2,” the follow-up to the 2018 hit TV-movie musical of the same name. While the undead have now assimilated into the community of Seabrook, they’re confronted by a new set of outsiders: werewolves. Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly return as Zed and [...]

  • Baby Yoda - The Child Animatronic

    Hasbro's Adorable Baby Yoda Animatronic Toy Is Already Sold Out on Disney's Online Store

    The Force remains strong for toys based on Baby Yoda, the breakout star of Disney Plus original series “The Mandalorian.” Less than a day after becoming available for pre-order, Hasbro’s new $59.99 Baby Yoda animatronic toy is no longer available on Disney’s official online store: As of Friday morning, Shop Disney listed it as “sold [...]

  • BTS Leads Spotify’s New Music Friday

    BTS Leads Spotify’s New Music Friday Playlist Rebrand

    Spotify has launched a global rebrand of its popular New Music Friday playlist, which this week features BTS, The Weeknd, Noah Cyrus, Trippie Redd, Kenny Chesney, Rei Ami and others. The revamped playlist, which has 43 versions worldwide, has more than 3.5 million followers in the US and eight million globally. New elements include a [...]

  • The Witcher - Netflix

    'The Witcher' Season 2 Production Starts in U.K., Adds Seven to Cast Including 'Game of Thrones' Star Kristofer Hivju

    Production on fantasy epic “The Witcher” Season 2 has commenced in the U.K., with a planned launch in 2021, Netflix announced. The show also announced seven new cast members joining “The Witcher” for S2, including Kristofer Hivju, the Norwegian actor who played the red-bearded wilding leader Tormund Giantsbane on “Game of Thrones.” Netflix last month [...]

  • Disney Plus - Vizio

    Disney Plus Is Now on Vizio Smart TVs in Native App

    Disney Plus is available on Vizio’s SmartCast TV platform as a built-in app, making the Mouse House’s subscription-streaming service accessible directly to users of the manufacturer’s 13 million SmartCast-enabled televisions. Previously, Vizio users have been able to stream Disney Plus on SmartCast TVs through Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. But with the Disney Plus update, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content