Joe Biden at the Democratic candidates' debate on Jan. 14, 2020. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A 1996 law that protects online platforms from liability for material their users post should be "revoked, immediately ... for Zuckerberg and other platforms," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a New York Times editorial board interview.

Why it matters: Inside the industry, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is seen as a cornerstone of the internet's success in giving users a voice. But as tech giants have consolidated their wealth and power, policymakers and industry critics — alarmed by the rise of online misinformation, privacy controversies and the impact of precision ad targeting — have zeroed in on Section 230 as a target.

"It should be revoked because [Facebook] 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."
— Joe Biden

Between the lines: Facebook, like other social media companies, sees itself not as a publisher with editorial obligations but as a platform that enforces standards of conduct among users who are free to communicate with one another both publicly and privately. Critics contend that Facebook's algorithms and human moderators are making digital-era editorial judgments when they decide what content is allowed on the site.

The bottom line: Biden isn't the only Democrat gunning for Section 230. Facebook's decision not to police fact in political speech and ads has made it some powerful enemies, and if the White House changes hands next year, it and other tech platforms could face a major fight.

Go deeper: Tech's liability shield becomes trade-deal flashpoint

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Harvard and MIT sue Trump administration over rule barring foreign students from online classes

A Harvard Law School graduate on campus before attending an online graduation ceremony on May 28. Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Harvard and MIT on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to block federal guidance that would largely bar foreign college students from taking classes if their universities move classes entirely online in the fall.

The big picture: Colleges, which often rely heavily on tuition from international students, face a unique challenge to safely get students back to class during the coronavirus pandemic. Some elite institutions, like Harvard, have already made the decision to go virtual.

Facebook auditors say it's failing on civil rights

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The findings from a new civil rights audit commissioned and released by Facebook show that the tech giant repeatedly failed to address issues of hatred, bigotry and manipulation on its platform.

Why it matters: The report comes as Facebook confronts a growing advertiser boycott and criticism for prioritizing freedom of speech over limiting misinformation and protecting users targeted by hate speech.