Trump threat to veto defense bill if Section 230 not revoked by Congress

  • President Donald Trump tweeted late on Tuesday night that he would veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless it included a repeal of Section 230.
  • Section 230 is the part of US law that grants broad protections to Big Tech companies to allow them to moderate their own platforms.
  • Trump has been trying to roll it back since Twitter first applied fact-checks to his tweets in May.
  • The NDAA is an annual defense spending bill worth roughly $740 billion, and Trump has already threatened to veto it if lawmakers go ahead with a plan to rename army bases named after Confederate generals.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Trump is trying desperately to get Section 230, the part of US law that protects Big Tech companies, revoked.

The president tweeted late Tuesday night that he would veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless it included a repeal of Section 230.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

The NDAA is an annual defense bill that grants roughly $740 billion in spending to the US military. Trump in July threatened to veto the bill if lawmakers voted to rename army posts named after Confederate generals.

Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act of 1996 grants internet companies broad legal protections. It means tech companies are able to decide how to moderate their own platforms, and shields them from liability for content their users post.

Trump has been railing against the law since May, when Twitter placed fact-checks on two of his tweets. Two days later, on May 28, Trump signed an executive order instructing federal regulators to investigate how they could roll back parts of Section 230. He claimed Big Tech companies discriminate against conservative users.

The DOJ submitted proposed legislation to Congress in September, and in October the FCC promised to examine the interpretation of Section 230.

The election interrupted his push to have the law amended, and legal experts told Business Insider there is no chance of any changes to Section 230 getting through before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Read more: Big Tech should prepare for pushback from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in these 3 areas

“Even in the most optimistic scenario any final rule will be challenged immediately in court and be put on hold,” said Scott Shackelford, associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University. “Plus, any executive action in this context cannot fundamentally change Section 230, not without Congressional action.” 

Congress is able to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority. Per Politico, Trump has vetoed eight bills during his term and Congress has been unable to put together enough bipartisan support to override them.

This means that if Trump follows through on his threat, the US may have to wait until Biden’s inauguration before military spending can resume.

An anonymous source told the Washington Post that Republicans have suggested to Democrats that reforming Section 230 could be exchanged for renaming Confederate general-commemorating army bases, but that offer has been largely dismissed.

Many Democrats have expressed support for changing Section 230, but for different reasons to Republicans. Biden expressed support for revoking the law in January on the grounds it grants tech giants too much immunity for hosting harmful content.

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