WASHINGTON D.C. (Forbes) – Donald Trump, in a series of late-night tweets, threatened to veto a critical annual defense spending bill unless Congress agrees to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Communications Decency Act legally protects social platforms from being liable for users’ posts. It allows them to moderate content in “good faith” — escalating his battle against social media platforms that he has accused of being biased against conservatives.
Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to “Big Tech” (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
Without offering any evidence, Trump claimed that “very dangerous & unfair Section 230” was a severe threat to America’s national security and election integrity. Trump’s ultimatum puts the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — considered essential as it helps pay the salaries of people serving in the armed forces — in jeopardy.
Following his election loss, Trump has continued to claim without evidence that online platforms are biased against conservative voices. Both the House and the Senate have passed separate versions of the bill and are working to iron out a reconciled bill for a final vote.
According to an Axios report, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has proposed that his bill was limiting Section 230 protections to be included as part of the final draft of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Trump has previously threatened to veto the NDAA over a provision that would require the Pentagon to rename 10 U.S. military installations that recognize Confederate generals who fought to defend slavery.
California based digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) condemned Trump’s threat, tweeting: “The White House wants to punish online services that host speech critical of the President by repealing a key online free speech law. This is a terrible idea for many reasons—including that it will be far more harmful to smaller sites and Internet users… it will only ensure that major platforms never face significant competition.”
The White House wants to punish online services that host speech critical of the President by repealing a key online free speech law. This is a terrible idea for many reasons—including that it will be far more harmful to smaller sites and Internet users. https://t.co/fIIuKGL9aD— EFF (@EFF) December 1, 2020
Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers have called for changes to Section 230. While Republicans claim that the law enables platforms like Facebook and Twitter to curb conservative voices, Democrats argue that it allows platforms to shirk their responsibility of moderating hateful content and misinformation.
Since his election loss, Trump has stepped up his attacks against the law and social media platforms as they have moved to add fact-check labels and warnings to his false claims about winning the election and large-scale voter fraud. Digital activists, however, have argued that Section 230 is a critical building block of the open internet, and removing platform protections will lead to more censorship as companies are forced to act more aggressively to remove potentially libelous content posted by users.