1. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a zombie piece of legislation that was misused to provide a shield for dot com platforms for violating copyright. It’s become a central tool for Republicans and then Democrats looking to pressure big tech over two issues.
Republicans want to pressure big tech over censorship of Republicans. Democrats want to pressure big tech into censoring Republicans.
Both sides obviously can’t win. But, backed by the media, Democrats have largely been winning in pushing big tech to censor Republicans. Facebook has become the lone big tech holdout, relative to Twitter and Google. And Democrats have blamed it for their Russian conspiracy theory.
2. Biden’s Section 230 statement means that all three of the top Dem 2020 candidates are, at least in theory, in favor of applying major pressure on big tech for various reasons. Biden is making it clear that his reason is about censoring Republicans.
But does Biden even know what he’s saying?
Charlie Warzel: Sure. Mr. Vice President, in October, your campaign sent a letter to Facebook regarding an ad that falsely claimed that you blackmailed Ukrainian officials to not investigate your son. I’m curious, did that experience, dealing with Facebook and their power, did that change the way that you see the power of tech platforms right now?
No, I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know. I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem. I think ——
CW: Can you elaborate?
No, I can. He knows better. And you know, from my perspective, I’ve been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt, which you’re not exempt. [The Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But he can. 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
CW: That’s a pretty foundational laws of the modern internet.
That’s right. Exactly right. And it should be revoked. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy. 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. It’s totally irresponsible.
CW: If there’s proven harm that Facebook has done, should someone like Mark Zuckerberg be submitted to criminal penalties, perhaps?
He should be submitted to civil liability and his company to civil liability, just like you would be here at The New York Times. Whether he engaged in something and amounted to collusion that in fact caused harm that would in fact be equal to a criminal offense, that’s a different issue. That’s possible. That’s possible it could happen. Zuckerberg finally took down those ads that Russia was running. All those bots about me. They’re no longer being run. He was getting paid a lot of money to put them up. I learned three things. Number one, Putin doesn’t want me to be president. Number two, Kim Jong-un thinks I should be beaten to death like a rabid dog and three, this president of the United States is spending millions of dollars to try to keep me from being the nominee. I wonder why.
This is typically Bidensque incoherent ranting. And it’s all about him.
Unlike Warren or Sanders, Biden doesn’t even pretend that he cares about any issue larger than him. As far as he’s been briefed, Section 230 lets Facebook run ads that make him look bad. And he can, presumably, be bribed out of his position, if say, Facebook were to put Hunter Biden or Frank Biden or Zeppo Biden on its board. Or, more likely, bring a Biden linked firm in to consult on something.
Still it’s a significant turn that opposition to big tech is a bipartisan issue.