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Trump threatens NDAA defense bill veto over social media speech immunity – here’s what he wants

President Donald J. Trump. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
December 02, 2020

President Trump threatened via Tuesday night tweet to veto the annual defense bill if it doesn’t repeal Section 230 – a federal law that protects social media giants from being held liable for content published on their platforms.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!” he continued.

Section 230 is part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act and gives broad immunity to websites and services over content posted by their platform’s users, and those platforms’ decisions to post or remove content. The law was implemented to support free expression on the internet.

The law has come under fire as social media giants like Twitter and Facebook are accused of acting like publishers, demonstrating bias on the platforms, and infringing on users’ free speech.

Trump signed an executive order in May to investigate social media companies’ legal protections and enable federal agencies to redefine their status when unfairly censoring users’ speech.

“Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike,” the executive order stated at the time.

“Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see,” the executive order added.

In October, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Congress urging the modernizing of Section 230.

“Under the current text of Section 230, an online platform that removes content in bad faith or that demotes the speech of others based on political viewpoint should not be entitled to immunity. That text provides immunity only for content removed ‘in good faith’ because it is ‘obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable’— not merely because the platform operators themselves dislike or disagree with it,” the letter said.

During testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claimed removing Section 230 would “remove speech from the internet.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested updates to the law.

Aside from Section 230, Trump has also made threats to repeal the annual defense bill if it includes a provision mandating the Department of Defense rename 10 military bases named for Confederate military leaders. Trump has vowed he will not allow the renaming to happen.