The Facebook logo. | Richard Drew/AP Photo
The campaign for former Vice President Joe Biden has launched a petition calling on Facebook to eliminate misinformation and tamp down voter suppression ahead of the election — putting the social media behemoth squarely in the cross hairs of both presidential candidates.
“Folks, we saw in 2016 what can happen when social media platforms are left unchecked and allow disinformation to run rampant. It puts the very integrity of our elections at risk,” Biden tweeted Thursday. “We simply cannot let it happen again in 2020.”
In an open letter to Facebook, Biden called on the company to promote trustworthy sources of election-related information and to quickly remove fast-spreading misinformation. Facebook should also prevent campaigns and PACs from lying in paid advertisements and set rules against threats and lies about how to vote and otherwise participate in the election, the campaign said.
“With less than 150 days until Election Day, the stakes couldn’t be higher. We’ve got to fix Facebook to protect our democracy and ensure fair elections,” he added on Twitter.
Facebook has instituted policies against certain election-related misinformation and voter suppression, though critics say those rules are not being adequately enforced, particularly when President Donald Trump is the one who appears to be breaking them.
Facebook says it’s not the one that needs to make a fix. In a statement, the company reiterated its stance that Congress needs to set the rules around campaigns, as well as what kinds of speech should and should not be permitted. As a private company, however, Facebook has autonomy over its content moderation decisions and is not beholden to the First Amendment.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Trump signed an executive order late last month that asked the FCC and FTC to consider investigating social media platforms he deems overly punitive of political speech, specifically conservative speech. The president and his supporters have long insisted that Silicon Valley companies harbor a bias against their views — a charge the companies deny.
The fact that Facebook finds itself targeted by the leaders of both political parties raises the heat on the social network and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has defended free expression no matter the opinion. Zuckerberg most recently declined to take action against Trump’s post threatening a military response to racial justice protesters, a passive approach that set off a wave of anger inside the company and among civil rights groups.
“There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it,” Facebook noted today.