Trump Threatens to Defund the Military If He Doesn’t Get to Kill Section 230

Outgoing president, Donald Trump, is making a last ditch effort to kill Section 230. The effort is not looking good already.

It seems that outgoing president, Donald Trump, is not done being a threat to democracy. After trying to make a last minute FCC nomination to try to turn the regulator into the speech police, Trump now appears to be trying to hold the US military hostage in a last ditch effort to kill Section 230.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual spending authorization bill. In short, it is a bill that fund the US military. For the most part, the bill is typically seen as a “must pass” bill. As a result, it wound up being ripe for political exploitation. One year, lawmakers decided to shoehorn a provision that authorized the indefinite detention of American citizens. The following year, the next NDAA “clarified” that the previous year isn’t meant to be interpreted that way. This after widespread public outcry.

This year, it appears that there are efforts to exploit the NDAA again. This time, the US president is threatening to veto the spending authorization bill unless there are provisions in it that kills Section 230. From TechCrunch:

Trump’s crusade against a key internet law known as Section 230 tends to pop up in unlikely places. His Twitter feed on Thanksgiving, for one. Or at times you’d think the nation would be hearing from its leader on the matter at hand: a worsening pandemic that’s killed nearly 270,000 people in the United States.

His latest threat to the law, which is widely regarded as the foundation for the modern internet, is unlikelier still. Now, Trump wants to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that allocates military funds each year, if it doesn’t somehow “terminate” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

In a tweet, Trump mysteriously called the law a “serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity” and claimed that only big tech companies benefit from it, which is not true. Big tech’s lobbying group made the opposite argument in response to the president’s new threat.

“Repealing Section 230 is itself a threat to national security,” Internet Association Interim President and CEO Jon Berroya said in a statement. “The law empowers online platforms to remove harmful and dangerous content, including terrorist content and misinformation.”

Time is running out for Trump, so the options are growing increasingly narrow to make any lasting impacts. He doesn’t have another four years to play with. So, with fewer and fewer options on the table, any last wishes before he is finally ousted from the White House will have to be, well, creative. Of course, sometimes, when you resort to last ditch creative solutions, the likelihood of success also starts to dwindle.

In this case, it appears that Congress is ignoring Trump’s last ditch effort to kill the free speech supporting law. From Politico (via TechDirt):

Congress is moving forward on a must-pass defense policy bill without repealing a legal shield for social media companies, rejecting a last-minute veto threat from President Donald Trump.

The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that will soon be considered by the House and Senate won’t include Trump’s long-sought repeal of the legal immunity for online companies, known as Section 230, according to lawmakers and aides.

Republicans also made clear they weren’t going to bend to Trump.

Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that while he agrees with Trump on Section 230, the provision “has nothing to do with the military.”

“You can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill,” Inhofe said, adding that he has conveyed that belief to Trump.

It seems that the chances of Trump successfully trying to kill Section 230 are growing increasingly bleak. The whole effort is ultimately aimed at giving far right conservative voices legal immunity from their actions online. The simple fact is that Trump ran out of time to accomplish this.

Still, Section 230 isn’t exactly out of the woods yet. As we previously noted, Democrats also want to reform Section 230 as well. From their perspective, they want moderation practices more transparent. They also want to start adding moderation practice standards across the board. After these requirements are made, then platforms would theoretically enjoy Section 230 immunity. This, according to critics, is problematic partly thanks to the first amendment issues this represents. It’s one thing to moderate as a private company, but it’s quite another to have the government dictate what should and shouldn’t be moderated.

While the sun may be setting for one set of threats to Section 230, it’s quite possible to see the sun rising on a completely different set of threats. It’ll be interesting to see if these threats come to fruition. After all the damage caused by the Trump administration, it’s possible that lawmakers will get distracted by other issues and run out of time to attack Section 230 – just like the Trump Administration.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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