It became apparent during the 2020 presidential election that social media wasn’t simply a platform to spread ideas, but rather a site that curates content to shape public opinion. President Donald Trump thinks that’s dangerous and isn’t about to let it stand.
Trump recently vowed not to approve a military spending bill if lawmakers don’t remove protections for social media companies under section 230 of Communications Decency Act of 1996. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a reporter Wednesday that “the president is serious about” vetoing the legislation unless those changes are made.
McEnany pointed out that big tech companies are able to use those protections meant to uphold decency standards as a “shield” even as they do more than act as a “public square” for ideas. “If you are a publisher, there are certain responsibilities with that,” she said. “You shouldn’t be immune from liability.”
She also explained that Trump has spent $2.9 trillion on the military during his first term as president. He obviously cares about national security, and it’s clear that his objection to those protections is about shaping policy on the domestic front.
“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 Wednesday. “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!”
…..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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
The provision is not related to the $740 billion defense spending bill, but Trump is leveraging it to draw a line in the sand, the Washington Post reported. Many agree that 1996 Act is outdated in its scope and spirit with the way internet sharing has evolved and become ubiquitous, but some are not supportive of the president’s means to get it done.
Something has to give, however, as social media’s role in influencing the 2020 presidential election is proof positive of the problem with their unchecked power. Twitter and Facebook killed the story of Hunter Biden’s shady foreign business dealings that broke just before the election. Nearly one tenth of voters in key states would not have cast their ballots for President-elect Joe Biden had they known about the story at the time.
Conservatives typically prefer as little government regulation as possible, but the bias and outright silencing of the conservative viewpoint social media cries out for justice. These companies are acting like content publishers while they enjoy the protections of tech platforms to the detriment of the First Amendment and the free exchange of ideas — and it has to stop.