Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection

Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection
© Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE called for revoking a key legal protection for online companies in an interview with The New York Times released Friday.

The presidential hopeful railed against Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them legal cover to take good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms, when asked about his concerns with Facebook.

"[The Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But he can," Biden told the Times editorial board, referring to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening Remote working takes off for Twitter, Facebook, tech companies MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms."

Biden's firm stance against the legal protection breaks with the other Democratic nomination contenders, some of whom have been critical of the law but none of whom have called for it to be "revoked."

"It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company," Biden said when pressed about the importance of the law. "It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy."

His comments suggest that Biden may want to revoke protections from Facebook, rather than removing the law entirely. The Hill has reached out to Biden's campaign for clarification.

As president, Biden would not be able to unilaterally remove Section 230. His comments suggest, however, that he would be willing to expend political capital to press Congress into acting on the internet law.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have increasingly raised concerns about the statute, floating potential amendments to it. Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyChinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' Trust in big government? Try civics education The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit MORE (R-Mo.) introduced legislation last year that would require platforms prove they are politically "neutral" before receiving Section 230 protections.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke on Texas reopening: 'Dangerous, dumb and weak' Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House O'Rourke slams Texas official who suggested grandparents risk their lives for economy during pandemic MORE (D-Texas), who suspended his presidential campaign last year, was the first Democratic contender to defend making changes to Section 230 as part of his platform.

This is not the first time Biden has criticized Section 230 protections in the context of Facebook.

"I, for one, think we should be considering taking away [Facebook's] exemption that they cannot be sued for knowingly engaged on, in promoting something that's not true," he told CNN in November. 

Biden has been increasingly critical of Facebook since the platform declined to remove an ad run by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE's reelection campaign accusing the former vice president of using his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to drop an investigation into Burisma. His son Hunter Biden sat on the board of the company. 

Facebook has since defended its policy to not fact-check political ads several times, essentially allowing politicians to lie on its platform with limited exceptions.

The social media giant declined to comment on Biden's comments to the Times, but pointed The Hill to testimony from Facebook's vice president of global policy management Monika Bickert last week.

When asked about Section 230 by Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Mo.), Bickert described it as an "important part of my team being able to do what we do" which "gives us the ability to proactively look for abuse and remove it."