Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on October 23, 2019 in Washington, USA.
Erin Scott | Reuters
A Biden campaign official publicly condemned Facebook for handling the aftermath of the election late Monday, claiming it was “shattering the very fabric of our democracy.”
Bill Russo, assistant communications director for the Biden campaign, sent out a series of tweets criticizing Facebook’s handling of misinformation and calling for election-related violence. Russo pointed out that Facebook’s posts were handled by Steve Bannon, a former advisor to President Donald Trump, and the Breitbart news agency previously run by Bannon.
The criticism could be an early indication of President-elect Joe Biden’s approach to the social media platform and possibly the entire tech industry. Biden has provided few pointers on how to deal with the list of concerns in the tech industry, which ranges from content moderation to antitrust issues.
But the sparse comments he’s made so far aren’t a good sign for the tech industry, and Facebook in particular.
“No, I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know,” he told the New York Times Transcript published in January. “I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem.”
Biden told the Times that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech platforms from being held liable for their users’ contributions, should be “revoked.” This is a far bolder stance than most lawmakers on the ether side of the Ganges have indicated, as the law also allows platforms to dismantle objectionable spots, such as those promoting violence or harassment.
Facebook banned a network of sites linked to Bannon on Monday for “artificial buoyancy”[ing]”The number of people who would see their posts on the platform. A group called ‘Stop the Steal,’ which reinforced Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud, was among the sites where Facebook violated and removed its policies The Bannon spokesman did not comment on the move on Monday.
But according to Russo, the action was too late. According to Russo, the group had already exposed thousands of users to the unsubstantiated theories, and after their removal several more emerged.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russo also criticized Facebook for keeping Bannon’s page on its platform after Bannon reported the beheading of state infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Christopher Wray. Twitter has suspended the podcast from its platform and Google’s own YouTube has also switched off the episode.
After Bannon published the episode, his lawyers defended him on charges of defrauding donors from a nonprofit in order to be released from his case.
Russo contrasted Facebook’s approach to voting misinformation with that of Twitter, which has more aggressive guidelines for flagging potentially misleading information. He claimed that while Twitter was preventing the dissemination of election misinformation from Trump, “Facebook has continued to actively promote the posts in feeds.”
Russo said in a tweet that the campaign had “asked Facebook for over a year to take these issues seriously. They don’t.”
The news signals that Facebook will likely continue to be scrutinized under the Biden administration. The company has been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of states for antitrust concerns for more than a year. According to Facebook, the federal agency could bring charges this month Politico.
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