Republicans have been talking for months about changing Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to better address the immense power and immunity enjoyed by social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Critics say that Silicon Valley is benefiting from outdated regulations that classify them as platforms, not publishers – important regulations that make it so these sites are not responsible for what users say when using their tools. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg cannot be sued for libel based on something a Facebook user posted on their page.
These regulations makes sense – the internet would hardly be able to exist without them. The problem arises, however, when companies like Twitter and Facebook abuse their immunity. The problem comes when they (gladly) accept the shield provided to them by Section 230 and then run their sites according to an obvious, biased political agenda. Critics say that they should not be able to claim the benefits of a neutral “platform” if they’re going to behave like a publisher.
The criticism reached a crescendo in October after The New York Post ran an explosive story about Hunter Biden’s laptop and the damning evidence found inside linking his father to his own dealings in Ukraine. Instead of remaining neutral about this story, Twitter locked the Post out of their own account and banned the spread of the report. Facebook didn’t go quite that far, but they also took action to slow the dissemination of the Post’s story.
“This is election interference and we’re 19 days out from an election,” said Sen. Ted Cruz at the time. “It has no precedent in the history of democracy. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”
But while there have been plenty of hearings and a whole lot of talk about re-classifying the big social media companies, there hasn’t been much action. President Trump is aiming to change that, according to a new tweet he released on Tuesday.
“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,” he continued, “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!”
With this tweet, Trump has drawn a mighty large line in the sand. We’ll see now if Senate Republicans have the guts to go forward with a serious new set of rules for Twitter, Facebook, and the other giants of 2020 online communications.