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Facebook to Joe Biden: Please regulate us!

Facebook “seems to be on a crash course to let the same mistakes happen again” in 2020, Biden said.

Facebook to Joe Biden: Please regulate us!
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore (Biden); Flickr user Anthony Quintano (Zuckerberg)]

There are 145 days left on the clock until November 3, and Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, says Facebook is screwing up all over again.

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“Tens of millions of Americans rely on Facebook as a news source,” the Biden campaign said in a letter to the social network. “But the company continues to amplify misinformation and lets candidates pay to target and confuse voters with lies.” The campaign warned that Facebook “seems to be on a crash course to let the same mistakes happen again” in 2020, after foreign actors used the service to influence the 2016 presidential election.

With four “asks” and a hashtag referencing Facebook’s old motto (#MOVEFASTFIXIT), Biden is calling on Facebook to do the following:

  • “Promote authoritative and trustworthy sources of election information, rather than the rants of bad actors and conspiracy theorists.”
  • “Promptly remove false, viral information.”
  • “Prevent political candidates and PACs from using paid advertising to spread lies and misinformation—especially within two weeks of election day.”
  • Create “clear rules—applied universally, with no exceptions for the President—that prohibit threats and lies about how to participate in the election.”

This call for moderation greatly contrasts with President Trump’s recent executive order seeking to rein in social media companies, and his accusations that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have it out for conservatives. Facebook more or less sided with the president on that matter in May, and today its response to Biden is no more proactive.

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The gist of Facebook’s response? You fix it.

“Elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” Facebook said. Here’s the full response (emphasis ours):

“We live in a democracy, where the elected officials decide the rules around campaigns. Two weeks ago the President of the United States issued an executive order directing Federal agencies to prevent social media sites from engaging in activities like fact-checking political statements. This week, the Democratic candidate for President started a petition calling on us to do the exact opposite. Just as they have done with broadcast networks—where the US government prohibits rejecting politicians’ campaign ads—the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them. There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”

Facebook is calling for regulation, but keep in mind that Facebook is wealthy enough to shape whatever regulation is thrown at it. What’s more, lawmakers’ recent threats of regulation haven’t meaningfully panned out, and let’s not forget that Biden is in no position today to set the rules. Facebook has also called for regulation before, many times over. So where does that leave us?

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Nowhere new. The social network is effectively throwing its hands in the air, while the Biden campaign gathers signatures and sends out tweets.

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