Jan 17, 2020

Biden calls for ending online platforms' liability shield

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

Go deeper

Facebook's rising Democrat problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of Facebook's biggest headaches leading up to 2020 isn't election interference or fake news — it's worrying about what a Democrat in the White House could mean for the business.

Why it matters: The Obama administration's warm embrace of Big Tech is no longer shared by many Democratic policymakers and presidential hopefuls. Many of them hold Facebook responsible for President Trump's 2016 victory, assail it for allowing misinformation to spread, and have vowed to regulate it or break it up.

Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

Facebook's decade of unstoppable growth

Despite an onslaught of scrutiny and scandal over the past few years, Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever.

The big picture: The tech giant brought in nearly $70 billion in revenue for 2019, up more than 25% from the year prior and up more than 1300% from 2012, the year it went public.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020

Facebook to pay $550 million over facial recognition tagging system

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook said on Wednesday it will pay $550 million in response to an Illinois-based class-action lawsuit against the facial recognition technology in its photo-labeling service, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The settlement is a sign that state-level regulations on facial recognition can extract real penalties from social media giants like Facebook, as more states introduce bills to regulate, ban or study the tech.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020