Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield

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President Trump on Tuesday night threatened to veto a defense bill if it does not include the repeal of a legal shield for internet companies, throwing down the latest gauntlet in a fight over a piece of must-pass legislation. 

Trump’s warning took aim at Section 230, which gives tech companies protections for third-party content posted on their platforms and allows them to make “good faith” efforts to moderate content. The president and other Republicans have claimed that social media firms use the law to unfairly censor conservatives.

“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!”

The veto threat will raise further questions about the future of the NDAA. Trump had already threatened to veto the bill over a provision mandating the Pentagon remove Confederate names from military bases and other property.

The House and Senate versions of the bill both contain the provisions, though the House bill requires the change within a year and the Senate bill mandates Confederate names be stripped within three years. The provisions received bipartisan support following nationwide protests over systemic racism following police killings of unarmed Black Americans. 

The White House last month suggested to House Democrats that it could drop its opposition to the provision if the NDAA included a repeal of Section 230. Tuesday’s tweets marked the first time Trump threatened to veto the legislation of the repeal is not included. 

Democrats poured cold water over the prospect of using the defense bill to kill Section 230 in November, with a Democratic aide saying, “it’s highly unlikely this offer will gain any traction,” referring to the White House’s proposal to drop the veto threat over the Confederate names.

“The idea that we’re going to completely repeal Section 230 in the defense bill? The committees of jurisdiction will have stuff to say about this,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said last month. “I don’t think that’s the way out of this.”

Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have looked to repeal Section 230 as a way of holding tech giants accountable for what they say is a failure to monitor harmful content online. However, Trump and his allies have used the law as a cudgel to hit platforms like Facebook and Twitter for what they say is political bias against conservatives, a claim for which little evidence has been provided.

The president has ramped up his criticism of Silicon Valley in recent weeks as social media companies flag his unsubstantiated posts over his claims of widespread voter fraud, which have been debunked in court and rejected by a handful of congressional Republicans.

Tags Adam Smith Donald Trump NDAA Section 230

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