Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Bill Unless Congress Reforms Immunities for Social Media Platforms
Should President Trump veto the NDAA if it excludes reforms to immunities for social media platforms?
What’s the story?
- President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to veto an annual national defense authorization bill if Congress excludes an overhaul of liability protections for social media platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He tweeted the veto threat and expressed his frustration with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK):
"Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senate @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill. So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!"
- Trump previously threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 if it includes provisions renaming military bases and assets that commemorate Confederates. Congress those provisions in the version of the NDAA both chambers are expected to pass next week.
- House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) released a joint statement that emphasized their desire to enact a bipartisan NDAA for the 60th consecutive year:
“For 59 straight years, the NDAA has passed because Members of Congress and Presidents of both parties have set aside their own policy objectives and partisan preferences and put the needs of our military personnel and America’s security first. The time has come to do that again.”
- Congress typically approves the NDAA on broadly bipartisan votes that feature veto-proof supermajorities with more than two-thirds of members in each chamber, so even if Trump follows through with his veto threat it’s likely that lawmakers will try to override the veto.
What’s the NDAA?
- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is legislation that Congress passes each fiscal year to authorize defense spending and establish policies at the Dept. of Defense (DOD). Congress typically approves the NDAA before it considers a defense appropriations package, which actually provides funding for authorized programs.
- The NDAA touches on all aspects of U.S. defense policy, from setting personnel levels for each branch of the Armed Services and planning the procurement of equipment, to creating plans for studying and deterring threats to national security.
- While there are often contentious issues addressed in conjunction with the NDAA in the congressional armed services committees and in a conference committee that reconciles the competing House and Senate versions of the NDAA, the final version of the legislation typically enjoys broad bipartisan support in both chambers as Congress has enacted an NDAA for 59 consecutive fiscal years through FY2020.
What immunity do tech platforms have?
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
- In essence, it means that platforms can’t be punished for content published by an end user of the platform. Critics have accused social media platforms of abusing that status by censoring or suppressing viewpoints their employees disagree with, thereby acting as a publisher rather than a neutral platform deserving of protections under Section 230.
- While there is some bipartisan support in Congress for reforming Section 230, the Trump administration has pushed hard for it to be revamped. President Donald Trump issued an executive order that seeks to prohibit social media censorship, the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) called for Congress to revise the legal protections for social media companies, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC will move forward with a rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: The White House via Flickr / Public Domain)
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