By Mike Masnick
Well, the government is closing out the year with quite a mess. As threatened, President Trump today vetoed the massive National Defense Authorization Act, living up to his promise to veto it if it didn’t include the complete revocation of Section 230 of the Communications Act, which has nothing to do with funding our military. Trump, for no reason at all, says that repealing Section 230 is important for “national security”, which makes no sense at all (nor does he provide any rationale for this statement). Senate Armed Service chair and Trump buddy Senator Jim Inhofe had already threatened to override the veto should Trump go this route — and has (correctly!) said that 230 has nothing at all to do with the NDAA. Inhofe has already responded to Trump’s veto by asking Congress to “join me in making sure our troops have the resources and equipment they need to defend this nation.” In other words, he’s asking Congress to override the veto.
As for 230, Inhofe (ridiculously) claims that he does support a repeal of the law, but it should be in a separate legislative vehicle, and not the NDAA:
We can and should use another legislative vehicle to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – a priority @realDonaldTrump and I share.
— Sen. Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) December 23, 2020
Meanwhile, the other big bills — the omnibus government funding bill and the COVID relief bill, which are now tied together at the hip — have also somehow been dragged into the Section 230 mess. Pretty much everyone assumed that after Congress voted overwhelmingly for both bills on Monday (as stupid as they were), Trump would sign them. After all, the White House was a part of the negotiations with Congressional leadership to come to the “compromise” that made it through.
But, last night, Trump threw a wrench in the works by claiming he wouldn’t sign either unless the amount going to qualified individuals was $2,000 rather than $600. This seriously messed with his Republican colleagues who had pushed repeatedly to keep that number as low as possible. But the Democrats rightly seized on Trump’s demands for $2,000 to agree with him and say they’ll offer a revised bill with that more generous number.
Somehow, Section 230 had remained outside of the discussion over the funding bill and the stimulus bill, but Senator (who else?) Lindsey Graham has brought the two together by saying that he’ll support the $2,000 part of the stimulus bill… if it also revokes 230. He’s been tweeting more and more about this all day, and is now claiming that a refusal to revoke Section 230 means that Congress “cares more about big tech than working Americans.”
That is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Section 230 protects working Americans more than it protects “big tech.” It protects us posting on social media. It protects us forwarding emails. It protects us when we retweet nonsense. It makes the open internet possible, and enables the next generation of competitors to “big tech” to exist. Lindsey Graham’s weird grandstanding about this is nonsense. Taking away 230 wouldn’t rein in big tech, it would lock in big tech. They have large legal teams and can handle the disruption. This is why Facebook already supports major 230 reform. Zuckerberg knows that it would harm upstart competitors way more than Facebook.
There can be legitimate debates about Section 230 and how the open internet should work. The fact that it’s suddenly being held hostage as part of the negotiations on three massive — and totally unrelated to the internet — bills is simply a case study in how broken Congress is, and how cynical politicians like Lindsey Graham have become.