President Trump took to Twitter Tuesday night to argue that Web site immunity from civil liability over their content moderation is corporate welfare and a threat to election integrity, finding yet another target of his unsubstantiated claims that the recent election was stolen from him.
He threatened to veto a defense bill if proposed amendments reining in Sec. 230 are not included.
In the tweet, he cited the Sec. 230 immunity, which he has been pushing the FCC rein in, calling it "a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to “Big Tech” (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!)."
He said the section is "a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand," adding: ".....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!"
Trump was highly critical of Twitter for flagging his pre-election tweets equating mail-in ballots with fraud, among others.
That tweet came the day before his nominee for the FCC, Nathan Simington, was scheduled for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee--he was approved in a party-line vote. Simington worked on a petition pushed by Trump that would have the FCC 'clarify' the limits of Sec. 230 immunity, a petition generated in part by the Twitter moves, but also squaring with the President's longtime complaint that Silicon Valley was a hotbed of liberal opposition that manifested itself in censorship of Republicans.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have issues with the breadth of that shield as employed by companies whose wealth and power rival many countries. Republicans argue it is used to censor conservative speech with impunity, while Democrats argue it is used for the dissemination of fake news and the making of political mischief with impunity. But the most likely scenario is that Congress clarifies its limits, as some are trying to do with amendments to the must-pass defense appropriations act.
Even social media sites, notably Facebook, have called for some kind of regulation, including tweaking the section, but that is partly to avoid the greater threat of elimination.
President-elect Joe Biden has even called for deep-sixing the immunity, though that is unlikely given the section's importance to the social media model.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.