Facebook continues taking it from all sides in this election year, with Democrats generally livid that President Trump continues to have a presence on the platform at all, and conservatives and Trumpists generally annoyed that Facebook has done what little it's done to curb the president's lies.
This week, Joe Biden's deputy press secretary Bill Russo tore into Facebook in a Twitter thread — where else? — over its continued amplification of misinformation about the results of the election, its tolerance of Trump's damaging lies about voter fraud that doesn't exist, and its decision to host a live-feed of a Team Trump press conference on Monday when even Fox News cut away from it.
"If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after," Russo wrote. "We knew this would happen. We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not."
Russo pointed to Breitbart, which has been using Facebook to amplify false messages about voter fraud and "Stop the Steal."
"Breitbart distribution should have been reduced on Facebook for multiple misinformation violations, but Facebook’s policy team intervened to remove misinformation strikes from its account," Russo writes.
It continues. Today, a Team Trump “voter fraud” disinformation press conference -- so full of lies that Fox News had to cut away -- ran unmediated on Facebook. After being prompted, Facebook added a woefully ineffective closable label to it.— Bill Russo (@BillR) November 10, 2020
New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose, who often tracks conservative misinformation on Facebook, also has called out the nightmare web of lies being spun on Facebook this week — all while Trump continues tweeting to anyone still reading that he "won" this election.
Facebook is absolutely teeming with right-wing misinformation right now. These are all among the 10 most-engaged URLs on the platform over the last 24 hours (per @NewsWhip data) pic.twitter.com/WlTR10fRBE— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) November 10, 2020
As the Chronicle reports, Facebook spokesperson Daniel Roberts has come out defending the company.
"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,” Roberts said in a statement. "We changed our products to ensure fewer people see false information and are made aware of it when they do."
But Facebook continues to let Trump spout whatever lies he wants about voter fraud, just with easily overlooked labels next to them about fact-checking.
Those labels, though, and others like them on Twitter, are enough to anger libertarians and conservatives who have been flocking to platforms that do no such fact-checking — or "censoring" of conservative speech, as they see it. As the New York Times reports, this has been a boon for Parler, the Twitter-esque "premier free speech social network" that Trump has occasionally threatened to adopt, and the right-wing media app Newsmax. Both are seeing millions of new users who dislike how Twitter and Facebook have treated — and fact-checked — Trump.
None of Facebook's bending over backwards to placate conservatives and Trump himself will help the company under a Biden Administration. As the Chronicle notes, Biden has expressed support for something that Republicans in Congress — and AG Bill Barr — also support: revoking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Facebook from prosecution for its users content.
"The potential impact here is huge," says Michael Petricone of the tech trade group Consumer Technology Association, speaking to the Chronicle. “We often talk about Section 230 in the context of a few big companies," Petricone says, but he notes the broad impact its revocation could have on companies like Yelp, Reddit, Pinterest, and more.
In other words, all the bad blood that Facebook has courted with Democrats and Republicans alike could, ultimately, have a major impact across the entire social media universe if Congress, and/or Biden, seek to punish Facebook in the coming years.