- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Biden campaign is furious with Facebook for not cracking down as hard as Twitter has on President Trump and his supporters.

Bill Russo, an adviser to presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden, ripped Facebook in a series of tweets. He took issue with what he and other Democrats view as the social media company’s unwillingness to stop the spread of misinformation online.

“Donald Trump voter fraud and election victory lies represented 17 of the top 20 posts on FB between 11/3-11/8,” Mr. Russo tweeted. “While Twitter disabled sharing of Trump’s election disinformation, Facebook continued to actively promote the posts in feeds.”

The anger on the left stems from a belief that Facebook tilted the playing field in favor of conservatives, which runs contrary to the widespread perception among conservatives.

Mr. Russo pointed to content enforcement decisions by Facebook that were not fast enough or failed to yield the result that Democrats wanted:

• Facebook failed to shut down content from conservative media leader and former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon.

• The platform removed a “Stop the Steal” group, organized by the pro-Trump nonprofit Women for America First, only after the group swelled to more than 300,000 members.

• Soon afterward, several other “Stop the Steal” groups formed on Facebook and grew rapidly.

Indeed, Facebook has lagged Twitter in restraining conservative speech. Twitter froze the New York Post’s account after the newspaper tweeted a story about shady foreign business deals by Joseph R. Biden’s son Hunter Biden that was potentially damaging to the father’s presidential run. Facebook restricted the distribution of the Post’s story.

Mr. Russo called for Facebook to limit the distribution of articles from the conservative website Breitbart, which he accused of having “multiple misinformation violations,” and expressed frustration that a Trump campaign press briefing involving allegations of voter fraud ran “unmediated” on Facebook.

The Biden aide said Facebook added a “woefully ineffective, closable label” to content displaying the press briefing only after it was pressured to do so.

“We knew this would happen. We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems,” Mr. Russo said in a Twitter post. “They have not. Our democracy is on the line. We need answers.”

Facebook responded by touting its preparation before the November elections to prevent misinformation from spreading on the company’s platforms.

“In the lead-up to this election, we announced new products and policies to reduce the spread of misinformation and the potential for confusion or civil unrest. We built the largest third-party fact-checking network of any platform, and they remain actively focused on claims about the election, including conspiracy theories,” a Facebook representative told The Washington Times. “We changed our products to ensure fewer people see false information and are made aware of it when they do, and highlighted reliable election information where nearly everyone on Facebook and Instagram saw that Vice President Biden was the projected winner of the U.S. election.”

Conservatives say the Biden campaign’s grievances are absurd.

Dan Gainor, vice president of the conservative Media Research Center’s TechWatch, said the criticism was “insane” and an attempt by liberals to label opposing viewpoints as misinformation.

“The left wants to censor or flat-out ban conservative content online. The right doesn’t want that. There’s no discussion of banning leftist content,” Mr. Gainor said. “This is just the left and their traditional media buddies trying to control everything we read and say.”

Many of Mr. Trump’s supporters want Facebook to hold its ground and not tip the scales before the presidential election results are finalized.

Mike Davis, founder of the conservative Internet Accountability Project, which is critical of Big Tech companies, said Facebook should remain neutral. Otherwise, it risks jeopardizing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites such as Facebook from legal liability for content posted by users on their platforms.

“If Facebook wants to be seen as a credible platform and continue to enjoy Section 230 immunity, it must not interfere in this election by taking the side of one presidential candidate against another,” Mr. Davis said.

Section 230 might be on the chopping block regardless of who occupies the White House next year.

The liberal animosity against Facebook sets up the potential for more regulation from a potential Biden administration that could be aimed squarely at making Facebook acquiesce. Mr. Biden said he is not a fan of Facebook or CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and he branded Mr. Zuckerberg a “real problem” in a meeting with the New York Times’ editorial board in December.

Mr. Biden also advocated “immediately” revoking Section 230.

Jesse Blumenthal, director of technology and innovation at the libertarian-leaning Charles Koch Institute, said the answer to bad speech should be more speech, not government threats or expensive lawsuits.

“Politician[s] and activists have lied during elections before Facebook existed and lying isn’t a problem that can be solved by a centralized authority,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an email. “I can’t predict exactly what the Biden administration will do but undermining Section 230 will only exacerbate the problems they are seeking to solve.”

While overhauling Section 230 may not be a top priority for a potential Biden administration, Facebook is poised to remain a target for Democrats who are angry about how their political opponents have leveraged the platform online.

Mr. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week regarding his platform’s handling of election content, and he has remained noticeably silent on the outcome of the election.

Other Facebook employees have celebrated Mr. Biden’s projected victory, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who posted on Facebook that the anticipated Biden-Harris victory was a “historic milestone.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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