President Donald Trump on Wednesday gained unexpected support from a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate after he criticized Section 230’s protections for Big Tech companies.
Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill to authorize defense spending, demanding that Congress first reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law protects web publishers from being sued for content posted on their platforms by third parties.
“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!”
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…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
Retiring Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a frequent critic of the president, expressed her full support for Trump’s veto threat.
“Please don’t back down. The freedom and future of our country is at stake,” Gabbard tweeted.
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) December 3, 2020
The rest of Congress, for the most part, is intent on brushing aside Trump’s veto threat.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that while he agrees with the president on the need to reform Section 230, it “has nothing to do with the military” or appropriations for the armed forces.
“You can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill,” Inhofe said, according to Politico.
“I would hope that he would not actually follow through with that because the NDAA is critical,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said of Trump’s veto threat.
“At this last minute, this sudden threat on an item that’s not even part of a defense bill. … I don’t think we could do it in a thoughtful, logical way at all,” said Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
He suggested the president’s veto threat “seems to be more out of spite than anything else.”
Politico reported that the House of Representatives will soon advance a compromise defense bill that resolves differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA, known as a conference report. The conference report leaves Section 230 unaltered.
President Trump does have some Republican support for vetoing the NDAA. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) will not support the bill because of legislative language about U.S. military bases named for Confederate soldiers. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he supports Trump “using all the leverage he can” to reform Section 230.
But Republican leadership remains opposed to tying Big Tech legislation to defense spending.
“I don’t think the defense bill is the place to litigate that,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “There will be enormous support for getting the defense authorization bill passed and hopefully signed into law.”