US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called for the repeal of section 230, part of a US law that protects internet companies from liability for content their users post online.
In an interview with the New York Times editorial board, Biden said companies should be responsible for libel on their platforms. The former vice president focused his ire on Facebook, the largest social media company, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Section 230, a provision of the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996, “should be revoked, immediately”, Biden said.
The rule has allowed Internet giants to take a hands-off approach to content on their sites, but has also spurred free expression online. Overturning section 230 could make Internet companies far more cautious about what they let users write on their platforms. Smaller websites could be hurt the most.
Technology companies have lobbied to protect section 230, but there have been successful efforts to weaken it already. Congress passed a sex trafficking law in 2018 that chipped away some of the protections.
Biden’s remarks to the New York Times, published on Friday, came as part of the newspaper’s presidential endorsement process. He focused particularly on Facebook. “It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false,“ Biden said. “You guys still have editors. I’m sitting with them. Not a joke. There is no editorial impact at all on Facebook. None. None whatsoever. It’s irresponsible.”
“I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know,” Biden added. “I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem.”
Other Democratic presidential candidates have expressed concern about section 230. At tech industry conference SXSW, Amy Klobuchar said: “It is something else that we should definitely look at as we look at how we can create more accountability.”
Biden also said the US should embrace some privacy protections like those in Europe, where citizens have more rights to remove negative content about them posted online. — Reported by Eric Newcomer, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP