Joe Biden Adviser Bill Russo Says 'Democracy Is on the Line' in Fiery Attack on Facebook

A top staffer for president-elect Joe Biden blasted Facebook in a fiery Twitter thread on Monday, claiming it remains a threat to democracy.

Bill Russo, a deputy campaign communications director, accused the Mark Zuckerberg-led social media giant of continuing to facilitate the spread of political disinformation in the wake of Biden's election victory over President Trump.

"We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not. Our democracy is on the line. We need answers," Russo tweeted.

Providing a possible glimpse into how the incoming administration will view the powerful social network—a key campaign advertising tool—Russo also seemingly deleted an anti-Facebook tweet that was sent after Biden's victory speech Saturday.

As reported by the Financial Times, Russo had shared an image uploaded by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen that showed president Trump shaking hands with Zuckerberg along with the caption: "One down, one to go." Russo had added: "Hell yes."

Baron Cohen remains a fierce Facebook critic and was an advocate for the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign that lobbied for an advertising cull earlier this year.

According to the Financial Times, Biden's transition team will include Facebook's former associate general counsel Jessica Hertz and Apple's ex vice-president for government affairs Cynthia Hogan. Former Google boss Eric Schmidt has also been approached to possibly spearhead a technology industry task force, the newspaper reported.

We knew this would happen. We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not.

Our democracy is on the line. We need answers.

— Bill Russo (@BillR) November 10, 2020

One down. One to go.

— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) November 7, 2020

Throughout the campaign, the Biden team was critical of Facebook, repeatedly calling for more aggressive moderation of false information and conspiracy theories.

In a letter to Zuckerberg in September, campaign chief Jen O'Malley Dillon branded the website as the "foremost propagator" of voting disinformation in the country.

In his Twitter thread Monday, Russo said Facebook was "shredding the fabric of our democracy," citing a series of alleged failures that took place in the past week.

He said that articles from the right-wing news outlet Breitbart were allowed to circulate misinformation about voter fraud, which the Trump campaign has latched onto in recent days in attempts to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.

Russo said Facebook added a "woefully ineffective closable label" to links to a briefing held by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany Monday that Fox News chose to cut away from due to her spreading unverified claims about voting fraud.

He accused the site of being slow to stop conspiracy theorists from mobilizing in "Stop the Steal" groups that were able to attract hundreds of thousands of users.

The Washington Post reported Monday that a collection of seven pages pushing "Stop the Steal" messages—allegations of voting fraud and questioning the election result—were taken offline and had been linked to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Analysis shows Facebook is "absolutely teeming with right-wing misinformation," said New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose this week, citing NewsWhip data detailing the most-engaged URLs published on the platform between Monday and today:

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)

— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) November 10, 2020

The tricky thing, for Facebook, is that some of the most viral stories aren't strictly false. (Perdue + Loeffler *did* call for the SOS's resignation.) But they are feeding a stolen election narrative that is going to be hard to dial back.

— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) November 10, 2020

It remains unclear how Facebook will be treated under the next presidency, although as
a candidate Biden previously indicated he would not go easy on the website and said he was of the opinion that Section 230—a law that protects websites in the U.S. from being held legally liable for the content uploaded by users—should be revoked

"I've never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know," he told The New York Times last December. "I've never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he's a real problem.

"The idea that it's a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms" he added.

While the future relationship between Facebook and the Biden administration remains unclear, some commentators agree the site had damaged democracy.

"It will take a generation to undo the damage that Facebook has done to American democracy and discourse," tweeted Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications under President Barack Obama.

"The fact that the leading source of information in America is a profit algorithm-driven cesspool of disinformation and hate speech has to be addressed through regulation."

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The Facebook logo is seen on a phone in this photo illustration in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2019. Facebook was criticized this week by a Joe Biden communications director, Bill Russo. ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty