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Trump's vow to veto defense spending bill without revoking Section 230 is political theater

Us Capitol Bldg
Us Capitol Bldg (Image credit: US Park Service)

On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would veto the National Defense Authorization Act, a series of federal laws the specify the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense, unless a provision is written into the bill that repeals Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

If the NDAA is not passed, servicemen and women don't get a paycheck.

The NDAA is a vital bill that determines things like munitions budgets but also is required to be in effect so members of the U.S. armed services are paid. Without any sort of budget, the Department of Defense has no money. This is why the bill has been easily passed every year since its inception in 1961.

While Trump says he will veto the bill without language that repeals Section 230, lawmakers plan to move forward without such restrictions because they know there will be enough votes to override any presidential veto.

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This isn't the first time President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA; earlier this year he said he would veto the bill unless a provision to remove the names of confederate generals from military bases was removed. Last year, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 377–48 and the Senate by a vote of 86–8 even though Republicans objected to language inserted that guaranteed paid parental leave for federal employees. The NDAA is that important to our country.

The news here is startling but not unexpected considering the current state of U.S. politics and the people who make up the three heads of our government. Constant infighting has become the new norm, but troops have always been paid. Thankfully, the NDAA will likely pass if Congress moves forward even if Trump uses his veto power.

What is Section 230?

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Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Section 230 refers to a portion of the Communications Decency Act, which is part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Communications Decency Act subsists of two main parts: an attempt to regulate pornography and obscenity on the internet, and rules about who is liable when such materials are posted. A large portion of the act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997 as unconstitutional, but Section 230 remains.

Section 230 basically says that we are responsible for the things we say on the internet.

Section 230 says 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" (47 U.S.C. § 230). This means that companies that host or republish speech are not responsible for what users might do with the service.

Section 230 applies to social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, but it also applies to your Internet Service Provider and any other "interactive computer service providers". While there are exceptions for criminal claims and intellectual property claims, CDA-230 provides a broad set of protections for all internet platforms.

Without CDA 230, entities like YouTube or Yelp, along with Facebook and Twitter would not exist because each and every piece of user-generated content would need to be reviewed to make sure no objectionable content was submitted. With CDA 230 in place, users are responsible for the things they say or post to the internet, not an ISP that was used to post them or internet services that allowed them to post it.

Why does President Trump want CDA 230 repealed?

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It's not only Trump who has called for a repeal of CDA 230; even President-Elect Biden has said it needs to be revoked. Both have different reasons for wanting its removal, though.

Cries for a repeal of 230 are all about moderation and misinformation.

President Trump says CDA 230 is "a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity" and that "Our Country can never be safe and secure if we allow it to stand."

President-elect Biden has said, "the law should be revoked and that he would seek to propose legislation that would hold social media companies accountable for knowingly platforming falsehoods."

These positions are the opposite of each other: one wants more moderation of misinformation, and one wants less moderation.

Nothing will change because of a few Tweets

Trump and servicemen

Source: Evan Vucci / AP (Image credit: Source: Evan Vucci / AP)

Neither President Trump nor President-Elect Biden is correct. CDA 230 needs to stay in place because real information vastly outweighs false information. Trump might get mad at Twitter for putting a disclaimer at the foot of his Tweets. Biden might get mad at Facebook for running untrue campaign ads. But CDA 230 protects Americans and American businesses and allows for anyone to have a voice as long as they follow any rules set by the platform in question.

Section 230 is what gives each of us a voice online. Its repeal would be a terrible thing.

Should CDA 230 be repealed, Twitter and Facebook would possibly be forced to remove Trump or Biden from their platforms. The two companies can not be held liable for the things other people publish on the internet. Both services can be a cesspool of deceitful posts, political and otherwise, but you can't blame Twitter or Facebook for the things we say.

And if you do, these companies will likely shut down as they would be unable to police the millions of posts that are submitted each day. There is certainly room for Section 230 to be changed, and we'll probably see changes in the near future. But a blanket repeal — as well as a threat to stop paying U.S. servicemen and women if it is not — is just political theatre designed to rile support from some and disgust from others.

The NDAA will pass, and Section 230 will stand until the next Congress decides to tackle how it may have been abused since it was written into law.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

17 Comments
  • The stupid part is, if you remove the protection social platforms have over user speech, you would have to accompany that with acknowledging their power to police that speech. That is unbridled 'censorship'. It is not a first amendment thing by the way. That protects citizens from Government censorship. Nothing says a private company has to publish anything anyone says. Without Section 230 Facebook/Twitter/Whatever should be within their rights to remove anything that they feel might open them to litigation, or for any other reason. They actually have that right now, but Section 230 protects them if they don't remove it.
  • These so called private companies get tax subsidiaries so yea there is that. Censorship not any kind should not go on.
  • Here's the important details left out of this article, which I'm extremely disappointed in Jerry for doing considering his large platform. Twitter, FB and Google through its platforms, push their own agenda by putting false or questionable at best disclaimers, limiting distribution, and flat out censoring people and/or stories. And the problem is it happens to mainly one political side. So FB, Twitter and Google aren't participating in free speech. In fact quite the opposite and they're using Section 230 as a shield. Section 230 needs to be removed and replaced with legislation that allows a liability shield for those organizations that allow free speech but when they start censoring, limiting distribution etc falsely for their own political agendas they need to be liable. I'm all for free speech for EVERYONE not just for Big Tech to push their own views.
  • This happens mainly to one political side because one political side lies more. One political side is peddling conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Conspiracy theories that could endanger the health of people in this country. One political side push lies that could affect the sanctity of our democratic systems (like the election was stolen). One political side pushes fake news stories from sources that can't be confirmed or are dubious at best. So when that one political side gets it's head out of its own head and info the real world, the censorship would not happen as much.
  • You should try getting our head out of wherever it is. You mean like democrats claiming the 2016 election was stolen and Russia help? You mean how story after story is published against Trump with no source at all and it stays up on these sites. The biggest censorship was the Biden laptop story and even Hunter or any Biden for that matter never came out and said it was false or it wasn't his laptop.
  • Well yes, there's evidence that Russia was/is meddling with our elections. The Biden laptop story was a false story told without any evidence as well. The President-elect has already commented saying it is false, there was no censorship of that.
  • No matter which side of the political aisle you are on, censorship of *any kind* is anti-American. Period. Social media are censoring posts and articles from certain groups, and anyone who refuses to acknowledge that is in denial. When social media companies start deciding what posts should and shouldn't be allowed to be viewed, then those platforms change from being a "protected" platform to an editorial publisher. That is the crux of the argument, and the main point of Section 230.
  • Not all censorship is bad. Government censorship is bad (though that's been happening on television for decades). But when you are on my property o have the right to censor whatever the hell I please. The same goes for social media. Anything that they feel harmful to the public. Now we have the right to not use the service or to continue using it.
  • It's real simple and they can keep 230. If the media is being used as a platform than it should be protected. When they start acting like a publisher (which is what is happening now) they should not be protected.
  • I hear that a lot. Other than the terms and conditions, what exactly has Twitter published?
  • Totally disagree with this biased article. Twitter et al is censoring the post as they choose. Good ole @Jack can rot in HELL.
  • Twitter is allowed to censor as they choose. Instead, they are allowing the president's postings to stand unaltered and simply adding a disclaimer to the bottom of them.
  • Haha, bull **** on other companies. Even NYPost got banned from posting there OWN newspaper article. By the way, deciding what is posted makes you a publisher which is in violation of 230. Plenty of conservatives are getting accounts blocked for retweeting the president, etc, posting there own views, etc whereas liberal side nothing. Even the ANTIFA thugs post death threats and takes days before removed.
  • By now who cares what the Moron-in-Chief is doing. In a few days he's history. And thank God, and every man, woman, or else who voted against him for that!
  • When he tries to make sure servicemen and women don't get paid because Twitter is being mean to him, I care. I care a lot.
  • Sorry bud, twitter is censoring certain group of people and not others. If you don't see the problem with that you are drinking too much liberal juice. If you allow only one view to be presented we become North Korea or China.
  • There's plenty of the 'other view' being presented. If must not read any social media platforms or watch any TV to not realize that.