Joe Biden slams Facebook, calls Zuckerberg a 'real problem'

In an interview with The New York Times editorial board, the Democratic presidential candidate doesn't hold back.

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3 min read

Former Vice President Joe Biden during the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times editorial board, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden made it clear he isn't a big supporter of Facebook or CEO  Mark Zuckerberg

"I've never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know," Biden told the Times. "I've never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he's a real problem." Biden had been asked about the power of big tech companies and about an ad that ran on Facebook falsely claiming he'd blackmailed Ukranian officials.

Zuckerberg "knows better," Biden continued. "And you know, from my perspective, I've been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt." Biden added that companies like Facebook should be responsible for the content on their platforms. 

Biden's remarks highlight the growing tension between Facebook and politicians ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. The social network has come under fire for allowing politicians to lie in ads. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the world's largest social network of caring more about money than truth. On Friday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tweeted that she sent a letter calling on Facebook to better enforce its rules against hate speech. The letter was sent after the Metro Times in Detroit published a story about how a now deactivated anti-Whitmer Facebook group included threats and "vulgar insults" against Michigan Democrats and Muslims. A Facebook spokesman said that the social network bars hate speech and it's in touch with Whitmer's office about the concerns she raised. 

During the Times interview, published Friday, Biden also said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says technology companies aren't liable for what users post on their services, "should be revoked, immediately should be revoked" for Facebook and other online services. 

Facebook didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment about Biden's remarks.

The issue around Section 230 has been bipartisan. Concerned that large tech companies are politically biased, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, introduced a bill last June that would remove the immunity provided by the act unless tech companies protected by it submitted to an external audit.

Proponents of Section 230 have long argued that it allows for free speech online.  

"It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company," said Biden, who noted how a newspaper like the Times has editors and can't simply publish known lies without fear of libel penalties. "It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy."

In response to a question about whether Facebook should be subject to criminal penalties if it's found that harm was done by content, Biden said Zuckerberg "should be submitted to civil liability and his company to civil liability, just like you would be here at The New York Times." 

This isn't the first time Biden has spoken out against Facebook or Section 230. He made a similar comment during a November Democratic debate that occurred roughly one month before his sit-down with The Times. 

Originally published Jan. 17, 9:21 a.m. PT
Updates, 1:48 p.m.: Includes background about criticism from Pelosi and Whitmer; 4:07 p.m.: Adds comment from Facebook about Whitmer's letter.