Two weeks after President Trump issued an executive order to block social media sites from fact-checking political ads, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden launched a petition urging Facebook to fact-check all political ads during the two weeks preceding the November election.
The petition demands that Facebook “proactively stem the tide of false information by no longer amplifying untrustworthy content and promptly fact-checking election-related material that goes viral” and to establish “clear rules” that ban lies about election participation.
“Real changes to Facebook’s policies for their platform and how they enforce them are necessary to protect against a repeat of the role that disinformation played in the 2016 election and that continues to threaten our democracy today,” said Biden campaign spokesperson Bill Russo.
Not only was Facebook unable to prevent Russian interference, but it also failed to stop a flood of misinformation about COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests. And that was after the site allegedly ramped up its fact-checking efforts. Facebook has also been accused of exempting prominent individuals from its rules about violence and of appealing to conservatives with claims that the site was never meant to be an “arbiter of truth.”
Joe Biden’s beef with Facebook began last October when the Trump campaign ran an ad accusing him of bribing Ukrainian officials to stop an investigation into a company for which his son Hunter worked (we know this to be true).
CNN claimed the ad contained ‘unsubstantiated’ claims and refused to run it, but Facebook allowed the ad even when Biden requested it be taken down – with CEO Mark Zuckerberg arguing that politicians’ comments, even if false, are newsworthy and thus important to public discourse.
“Just as they have done with broadcast networks, where the US Government prohibits rejecting politicians’ campaign ads, the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. “There is an election coming in November, and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”
In January, Biden called on lawmakers to revoke Facebook’s legal immunity from lawsuits over user-generated content and said Zuckerberg should be held personally liable in criminal court.
What sleepy Joe fails to realize here is that Facebook is a massive platform with new posts and videos appearing every second. Facebook enjoys Section 230 protections because it is impossible for the site to review everything that is posted, nor should it be forced to.
Facebook was designed for connecting with friends and sharing photos of your cat, not publishing legitimate news. Putting restrictions on what people can post on Facebook is a violation of the First Amendment. As noted by Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh, we should trust the American people to seek news from sources other then their friend’s Facebook feeds:
“The American people can think for themselves…The American people don’t want big tech companies telling them how to think.”
Of course, Biden wants Facebook to fact-check what Trump is saying, but that isn’t how the world works. And his two-week idea makes no sense because it would allow politicians to continue lying in ads until mid-October. By that time, most people have already decided who they want for president.
Despite his hatred for Facebook, Biden used the site to promote his petition and has spent $5 million advertising on the site in recent weeks (more than Trump).