Joe Biden spoke extensively about the tech industry and social media in a recent sit down with The New York Times. The former Vice President referred to “creeps” in Silicon Valley who have too much power and too much freedom. So, what could it mean for the online landscape if Biden’s campaign to become America’s 46th President succeeds?
Foremost among Biden’s ideas is that social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, need to be regulated more closely and come under some of the same laws which affect the websites of large news publications.
What would this mean for everyday social media users? Well, comments may be more likely to vetoed, or removed, from your favourite social media platforms. Equally, regulation could make it harder to see political content on social media platforms altogether, though its hard to say exactly how Joe Biden’s ideal social media space would run. He certainly didn’t pull any punches when commenting on the industry.
“When I’m president, I’m inheriting a different world than Barack inherited,” he told the editorial board of the New York Times. “I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know. I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem… Not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them [social media platforms] being exempt.”
The former Vice President’s ire wasn’t just reserved for social media bosses either, when discussing a meeting he attended with an unnamed gaming boss, Biden stated, “At one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi- — close to a billionaire — who told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people.”
As a result of his views on social media, Biden argues passionately that Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act should be revoked. Section 230 says that online platforms are not held accountable for things users post. So, revoking this would mean that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms would have to go to greater lengths to manage ‘trolls’, racism and other issues in their online communities.
Biden, who is currently campaigning to become the Democratic presidential candidate, argued that Facebook “is propagating falsehoods” and more editorial control should be exercised over the content and posts that people see on the social media platform.
Biden has been on the receiving end of some suspicious Facebook activity himself. After initially refusing to remove anti-Biden posts, some of which allegedly originated from Russia and Iran, Facebook relented and removed the accounts and posts in question, says the politician.
Biden seemingly has a general suspicion of Silicon Valley and the wider tech industry. Right now, he argues, tech companies like Facebook have become far too powerful and far too resistant to any form of regulation. If he becomes President, things could change.
“You may recall, the criticism I got for meeting with the leaders in Silicon Valley,” he said. “One of these righteous people said to me that, you know, ‘We are the economic engine of America. We are the ones.’ And fortunately I had done a little homework before I went and I said, you know, I find it fascinating. As I added up the seven outfits, everyone’s there but Microsoft. I said, you have fewer people on your payroll than all the losses that General Motors just faced in the last quarter, of employees. So don’t lecture me about how you’ve created all this employment.
“The point is, there’s an arrogance about it, an overwhelming arrogance that we are, we are the ones. We can do what we want to do. I disagree.”
At the moment, it’s not just tech giants abusing their power either. Generally, the un-policed areas on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, where mis-information is propagated, have been abused across the board, according to Biden. Even by America’s President, Donald Trump. Now, he’s arguing that American’s need to vote to change that.
“The fact is, in every other revolution that we’ve had technologically, it’s taken somewhere between six years and a generation for a government to come in and level the playing field again. All of a sudden, remember the Luddites smashing the machinery in the Midlands? That was their answer when the culture was changing. Same thing with television. Same thing before that with radio. Same thing, but this is gigantic. And it’s a responsibility of government to make sure it is not abused. Not abused.”