Biden Calls for Repeal of Law that Shields Internet Giants From Liability

Eric Newcomer

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for the repeal of Section 230, part of a U.S. 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 Inc., the largest social-media company, and Chief Executive Officer 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.

Read more: The 26 Words That Helped Make the Internet a Mess

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 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 U.S. should embrace some privacy protections like those in Europe, where citizens have more rights to remove negative content about them posted online.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Newcomer in San Francisco at enewcomer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at mmilian@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew Pollack

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