Last week the Democratic party took control of all three branches of the U.S. government — and the BBC's North America technology reporter notes they dislike Facebook even more now than during the Cambridge Analytica scandal: Since then, Democrats — Joe Biden included — have been appalled by what Facebook has allowed on its platform. Talking to a CNN anchor in late 2019 Joe Biden said, "You can't do what they can do on Facebook, and say anything at all, and not acknowledge when you know something is fundamentally not true. I just think it's all out of hand." When you're a billionaire, perhaps it doesn't matter that the president doesn't like you much. But what President Biden has a chance to do now is restructure Big Tech and reformulate the relationship that social media companies have with their users. That could be devastating for Facebook. Its most obvious problem is the potential repealing of Section 230... Joe Biden has said he wants it removed. In fact, in that same New York Times interview from a year ago he said he wanted it "revoked immediately". That could spell disaster for Zuckerberg. Suddenly all the things people post, all of the defamatory and fraudulent things people say — would be the responsibility of Facebook. It's hard to see how Facebook functions in its current form without Section 230. And that's before we get into Facebook's anti-trust problems. It's currently being sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states for "illegally maintaining its monopoly position" by buying up the competition. The FTC has also said it's looking at "unwinding Facebook's prior acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp" — i.e. breaking the firm up. Facebook will, of course, fight that. But Biden seems a pretty willing ally to those who want to split up Big Tech. In 2019, he said that breaking up companies such as Facebook was "something we should take a really hard look at". Jameel Jaffer, a media legal expert at Columbia University, told me: "I would expect the Biden administration to be pretty aggressive in enforcing the anti-trust laws. And to have the whole spectrum of harms in mind, not just the democratic harms, but harms relating to user privacy and consumer welfare." President Biden is even reportedly thinking of creating an anti-trust tsar, designed specifically to restore competition in areas like Big Tech.
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