Trump Drops the Hammer on Big Tech
President checkmates social media giants after censorship allegations
President Donald Trump has dropped the hammer on Big Tech giants by going all-in to repeal the legal protections that social media companies enjoy on their platforms.
The president revealed late Tuesday that he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress repeals Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
Critics say that Section 230 unfairly shields social media platforms from liability over items posted on their platforms.
Without such protections from the US Government, Big Tech companies would need to dramatically alter their practices, or face being sued into oblivion.
Opponents of Section 230 have been vocal that tech behemoths like Twitter and Facebook should no longer be shielded as a neutral platform when they operate more like a publisher by censoring and removing content.
In the weeks prior to the presidential election, the criticism seemed to reach its tipping point during the Hunter Biden scandal.
President Trump has been the most vocal advocate for repealing Section 230 after his own social media channels, and those of his supporters, have been unfairly targeted.
.....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Josh Hawley called on the heads of Twitter and Facebook at the time to testify.
“This is election interference and we're 19 days out from an election,” Cruz said.
“It has no precedent in the history of democracy.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”
Trump, who has refused to concede the election and has a legal team investigating allegations of widespread voter fraud, has maintained a fraught relationship with these companies, despite attracting 88 million followers on his Twitter handle.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
"Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand.
"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!”
The Department of Justice sent a letter to Congress in October that advocated for changes to the 25-year-old law that essentially protects these companies from being sued by content posted on their sites.
The DOJ’s letter, which was addressed to several congressional leaders, read, “Today’s large online platforms hold tremendous power over the information and views available to the American people.
"It is therefore critical that they be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power.”
Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter, respectively, talked about the law in front of the Senate Commerce Committee in October.
"Section 230 is the most important law protecting internet speech," Dorsey said during his testimony.
"In removing Section 230, we will remove speech from the internet."
Zuckerberg suggested that Congress “updates the law to make sure it is working as intended.”
"One important place to start would be making content moderation systems more transparent," he said.
"Another would be to separate good actors from bad actors by making sure that companies can't hide behind section 230 to avoid responsibility for intentionally facilitating illegal activity on their platforms," he said.
"We are open to working with Congress on these ideas and more."