President Donald Trump’s demand for Congress to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is gaining support among key allies in Congress, as is his call to boost COVID-19 relief payments to Americans.
Both demands come amid the president’s growing disagreements with Democrats and some Republican leaders over bills that both parties have come to view as ‘must-pass’ legislation.
“Twitter is going wild with their flags, trying hard to suppress even the truth. Just shows how dangerous they are, purposely stifling free speech. Very dangerous for our Country. Does Congress know that this is how Communism starts? Cancel Culture at its worst. End Section 230!” Trump tweeted Christmas Eve.
Trump vetoed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday after repeatedly threatening to do so if the bill did not contain Section 230 repeal language, which it did not. He also disagrees with language in the NDAA that calls for establishment of a commission to study renaming U.S. military bases currently named after Confederate officers.
But Section 230 has long been a concern of the president as well as several Republicans and conservative figures who believe the major platforms have censored them or diminished their reach and, hence, their influence.
According to the language of Section 230, blog and online forum operators are protected from liability for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that includes “editing or deleting posts you consider objectionable, even if those posts would be protected by the First Amendment against government censorship.”
But as President Trump and others have alleged, platforms including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have increasingly operated as publishers by making editorial decisions such as deciding what content can and cannot be shared, seen, or posted. And Section 230 protects them from being held legally liable for doing so.
The president’s demands — for the repeal as well as his call for more coronavirus relief for Americans — continues to gain more backers in Congress, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“Congress should vote to Repeal Section 230 as requested by President @realDonaldTrump. I will not vote to override presidential veto unless effort is made to wind down Section 230,” Graham wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Congress should vote to Repeal Section 230 as requested by President @realDonaldTrump.
I will not vote to override presidential veto unless effort is made to wind down Section 230.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 23, 2020
He followed that up with tweets on Christmas Day.
“After spending some time with President @realDonaldTrump today, I am convinced he is more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $2000 per person and challenge Section 230 big tech liability protection,” Graham wrote.
Both are reasonable demands, and I hope Congress is listening. The biggest winner would be the American people.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 26, 2020
“Both are reasonable demands, and I hope Congress is listening. The biggest winner would be the American people,” he added.
It’s not clear whether Graham’s decision to back the president will be successful. Both chambers of Congress passed the NDAA with veto-proof majorities.
As for new COVID relief offering the reduced amount, that measure also sailed through Congress last week. But after it passed and was widely panned by critics who said payments to Americans were embarrassingly small given the duration of the pandemic, Trump began demanding $2,000 payments instead.
“Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600?” he tweeted Friday afternoon. “It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!”
The president and others including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have also blasted the massive 5,500-plus page bill as stuffed with pork-barrel spending that dramatically inflates the national debt.
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