Biden Spreads False Info By Saying That Taking Away Section 230 Will Make Facebook Liable For Spreading False Info
from the ok-boomer dept
Well, here we go again. So many politicians seem to think that Section 230 is the root of anything bad they see online, and insist that it needs to be removed to fix things that have nothing to do with 230. The latest is Joe Biden, who has a pretty horrible record regarding his own understanding of technology and the internet. In a weird comment on CNN about what to do about Facebook and moderating political advertising… Biden shifted the conversation to Section 230 after first making some false statements about what the law requires.
Joe Biden: "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." pic.twitter.com/p8Moh2fyJy
— The Hill (@thehill) November 12, 2019
Here’s what he says:
I just think that social media has to be more socially conscious of what is important in terms of our democracy. And part of that is a little, uh, truth in lending here. And everything is not about whether they can make a buck. It requires the journalistic responsibility you have [points at CNN journalist interviewing him]. You can’t do what they can do on Facebook. You can’t do what they can do and just say anything at all and not acknowledge that when you know something is fundamentally not true. And I just think it’s a little out of hand.
And I, for one, think that we should be considering taking away the exemption that they cannot be sued for knowingly engaged in promoting something that’s not true.
This is weird and nonsensical on many levels, though it appeals to those clueless about the law (and the Constitution), and plays to those who just hate Facebook for the sake of hating Facebook (hence the loud audience applause at the end of that clip). To be clear, almost everything Biden says in that clip is wrong or nonsense. Yes, to a larger extent, Facebook and any company is focused on making money, but to claim that they’re only allowing unmoderated political ads because of the money is silly. The issue is a lot more complex and nuanced than that. The larger issue is do you actually want Facebook determining which political ads are “truthful”? Because I’d bet a fair sum of money that if Facebook took the opposite position, and agreed to start carefully moderating all political ads, Joe Biden would sit on the very same stage and spew some nonsense about “how dare Facebook appoint itself the arbiter of truth!” I mean, we already saw exactly that split when Elizabeth Warren both complained when Facebook moderated a political ad and also when it did not.
Second, it’s weird to argue that the platform hosting political ads must have “journalistic responsibility.” Politicians (including Joe Biden) regularly post political ads on TV and elsewhere across the internet spewing all kinds of nonsense that is not true and meet no level of “journalistic responsibility” but we don’t see anyone complaining about those platforms having those ads. No one goes after the local TV affiliate because it runs a bogus political ad. We [correctly!] complain about the campaign running the bogus ad.
Also, it’s an apples and oranges comparison to point to the journalist and say that she can’t do what Facebook does, because a journalist doesn’t host political ads at all. Or if the argument is that a journalist can’t post misleading information, well, that’s obviously false. It happens all the damn time. And in most cases, outside of the very rare cases where such misleading information reaches the very high bar of defamation, it is entirely legal under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution (you know, the document that Biden is running to supposedly protect).
Finally, that’s also why targeting Section 230 is particularly ridiculous here and makes no sense. Biden’s real complaint seems to be with the 1st Amendment and the fact that sometimes politicians are less than fully truthful in their advertising. But that’s kinda on the politicians and has literally nothing at all to do with Section 230. At best if you repealed Section 230 in the belief that it’s allowing Facebook to let in misleading political ads, you’d either get Facebook to stop looking at all of its ads entirely (to avoid any knowledge) in which case nothing will change, or you would get a situation like the one with Twitter where it says it’s getting out of the political ad business entirely, which creates a whole different set of problems.
Neither of those “solutions” solves the problem Biden is really pretending to be mad about: the fact that some politicians on the other side are posting things that he (reasonably!) finds to be misleading. But that’s because, in typical Biden fashion, he’s not even remotely curious enough to understand the root causes of this and how the overall system works, but prefers to go for the easy layup position of “blame Facebook” and “blame this random law that people falsely think allows Facebook to do this.”
Frankly, if politicians saying false and misleading things should be against the law, as Biden implies here, his very statement on CNN itself would be illegal. And, obviously, that’s crazy. Because of the 1st Amendment… which is what Biden appears to be truly upset with.