On Thanksgiving, President Trump not only repeated his call to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but made the ludicrous claim that doing so was urgently required for the defense of the country.
“For purposes of National Security, Section 230 must be immediately terminated!!!” he tweeted Thursday night.
At the time, the hashtag “DiaperDon” was trending, leading some observers to assume that Trump was simply striking back at Twitter over the insult.
But it seems more likely that Trump may have been trying to draw a connection between national security and Section 230 because he hopes to convince lawmakers to repeal the 1996 media law as part of a defense-spending authorization bill.
Last month, Trump reportedly floated a plan to approve the National Defense Authorization Act in exchange for the repeal of Section 230, even though the defense bill removes Confederate leaders' names from bases -- a provision he previously opposed.
But that potential deal was seen as improbable, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the negotiations.
Trump, however, apparently believes the tradeoff is realistic.
Late Tuesday night, Trump vowed on Twitter to veto the defense spending bill unless it also revoked Section 230, which he described as a threat not only to national security, but also to "election integrity."
"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," he tweeted.
Even though Trump appeared to reject the idea of amending the law, Axios reported earlier on Tuesday that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) is pushing for his proposed “Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act” to be included in the defense spending bill.
Section 230 protects publishers from lawsuits over content-moderation decisions, including decisions to suppress posts. While the First Amendment also protects those decisions, Section 230 can provide web companies with a faster route to victory when they are sued over those decisions.
Wicker's proposed bill would strip web companies of Section 230 immunity for removing or restricting posts, unless the companies have an “objectively reasonable” belief that the material falls into specific categories of objectionable content. Those categories would be limited to material that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing,” or “promoting self-harm, promoting terrorism, or unlawful.”
Axios doubts this particular strategy will work, writing that Republicans in the Senate are trying to craft a bill that combines Wicker's with the bipartisan Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, introduced in June by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota).
That measure would require large web publishers to post quarterly reports about material that has been removed, demonetized or demoted.
Twitter, Facebook, Google and other large web publishers would also have to create a system for processing complaints about content, notify users about decisions within 14 days, and allow consumers to appeal.