Trump Vows Again to Veto Defense Spending Bill Unless Big Tech’s Legal Shield Scrapped

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 9, 2020

President Donald Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed that he would veto the annual national defense spending bill unless it terminates the legal shield that protects “Big Tech” platforms from liability over content posted by users is terminated.

“I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will VETO,” Trump wrote on Twitter about the bill, which sets the budget and policy priorities for the Defense Department.

“Must include a termination of Section 230 (for National Security purposes), preserve our National Monuments, & allow for 5G & troop reductions in foreign lands!” he wrote.

Earlier this month, Trump threatened to veto this year’s NDAA unless Congress “completely terminated” Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which guarantees that social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can’t be sued in American courts because of the content generated by their users, so long as they’re not considered publishers.

Trump
President Donald Trump participates in a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the United States Military, at the White House in Washington, on Nov. 26, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Critics of the social media giants, however, say that they do act as publishers when they censor certain users or topics, and use fact-checking power to label posts they don’t like as misinformation.

“It’s essentially a shield that is given to social media networks because they claim to be the public square,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a press briefing. “And when you’re a publisher, there are certain responsibilities with that. You should not be immune from liability.”

McEnany called out Twitter for a double standard, saying that Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s posts expressing hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people were apparently considered “not worthy of flagging or blocking.” She said Chinese officials’ disinformation about the origin of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus were also overlooked by Twitter’s fact-checking system.

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A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarter in San Francisco, Calif., on July 26, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When asked whether Trump is seriously considering and talking about vetoing the NDAA over Section 230, McEnany replied that the president is “serious about it.”

“It also is worth-noting that the president will always defend our military and ensure that we get adequate defense funding, as he’s gotten $2.9 trillion so far. But he is going to put the pressure on Congress to step up on this,” she said.

Former vice president Joe Biden, in a rare agreement with Trump, said earlier this year during an interview with The New York Times that Section 230 should be “revoked immediately.”

“I’ve been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt, which you’re not exempt,” Biden said at that time. “[The New York Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But [Mark Zuckerberg] can.”