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Joe Biden Rips Facebook as ‘Tool to Spread Misinformation’

Facebook has allowed candidates to ”confuse voters with lies,“ according to presumptive Democratic nominee

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden skewered Facebook on Thursday, calling it a “tool to spread misinformation” in an open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Biden also called on the company to apply its rules fairly to all users — “with no exceptions” for President Trump — while also offering a handful of suggestions on how Facebook can improve.

“After foreign operatives and rightwing trolls used Facebook to hack the 2016 election, Facebook vowed ‘never again’ and promised to take action.  But with fewer than 5 months until the 2020 election, Facebook seems to be on a crash course to let the same mistakes happen again,” Biden said, in a preamble to his open letter. “Tens of millions of Americans rely on Facebook as a news source. But the company continues to amplify misinformation and lets candidates pay to target and confuse voters with lies.”

Biden’s criticism comes after Facebook was widely criticized last fall for not pulling political ads containing lies; his criticism also comes after Facebook has been ripped over the last few years for its inability to weed out Russian trolls during the 2016 U.S. election. Still, there is little reason to believe bogus Russian ads played a major role in shaping the results of the 2016 election. A study from Oxford University found Russian trolls, working for the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, spent less than $75,000 on Facebook ads between 2015 and 2017.

In his letter to Zuckerberg, Biden said “Facebook has taken no meaningful action” to block election misinformation since 2016. He also called out the company for not taking action against President Trump’s account — a move that has set Facebook apart from Twitter and Snapchat in recent weeks.

Facebook “continues to allow Donald Trump to say anything — and to pay to ensure that his wild claims reach millions of voters,” Biden said in his letter.

The Biden camp also outlined four “responsible” measures it would like Facebook to make. Per Biden’s website:

  1. They need to promote authoritative and trustworthy sources of election information, rather than the rants of bad actors and conspiracy theorists.
  2. They need to promptly remove false, viral information
  3. They need to prevent political candidates and PACs from using paid advertising to spread lies and misinformation — especially within two weeks of election day
  4. They need clear rules — applied universally, with no exceptions for the President —  that prohibit threats and lies about how to participate in the election.

Facebook responded soon after Biden’s letter and measures were released. The company said it will continue to take a laissez-faire approach to political speech on Facebook, and that the responsibility to change what is and isn’t allowed to be said online falls on elected officials.

“Just as they have done with broadcast networks — where the U.S. government prohibits rejecting politicians’ campaign ads — the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” Facebook said. “There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”

Since 2016, Facebook has implemented a few rules to combat election meddling, including making all U.S. political advertisers register with an American address. The company has also rolled out a tool allowing users to see how much money politicians have spent on Facebook. Interestingly, Biden has spent more than $14 million on Facebook ads in the last three months, compared to $9.42 million spent by Trump during that same time.