President Donald Trump Thursday night reiterated his vow to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an important military spending bill, if it doesn’t include language to end Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which many on both sides of the political aisle deem a free ride for Big Tech companies to do whatever they want. But many people, including me, have argued that removing Section 230 would cause more problems than it would solve.
I cannot find a bigger supporter of President Trump than myself, and I am against shutting down Section 230. Trump has one of the best reasons for doing this, and it’s because he has been the biggest victim of the abuses of Section 230. The big tech giants actively censored the president and any and all of his supporters during the 2020 election. They labeled truthful posts as “misleading” or “false” because they decided a long time ago that they were going to support Democrats over Republicans, and they decided they were going to do everything they could to harm Trump’s reelection efforts. Many openly discussed it.
My reasons for not wanting to repeal Section 230 have nothing to do with protecting social media tech giants from continuing to censor people with different political beliefs. That’s wholly unamerican as far as I’m concerned. The reason I’m against it is because removing Section 230 will do nothing stop Twitter, Facebook, Google or others tech tyrants from continuing to do the awful things they do to millions of Americans, because they have billions of dollars at their disposal that they can use to have their lawyers tie up the courts for a decade or longer.
Companies would be held legally responsible for everything people say on their site, and they would face legal risks for enforcing community standards or voluntarily restricting access to or deleting inappropriate or illegal content at the same time.
Removing Section 230 will do actual harm to the good guys who don’t have that kind of money to defend themselves from liability lawsuits. Newly emerging social media companies like Parler.com, Rumble.com, MAGA-Chat.com and others who act like real platforms would be crushed by frivolous lawsuits and then forced to shut down. That would help the tech tyrants and do nothing to get them to comply with the spirit of Section 230. Disclaimer: I own MAGA-Chat.com.
Instead of repealing Section 230, we would do better if we just removed platform status of the tech tyrants who are acting like a publisher by censoring free speech. We should only allow social media companies that behave like a true platform to have the protections of Section 230, which is what Section 230 is all about.
Trump focused his argument on the NDAA’s sponsor, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), after the senator insisted that the termination of Section 230 did not belong in a military spending bill. He said this after the Senate amended the bill to include a section for renaming military bases and other military assets that bear a Confederate name, which also does not belong in a military spending bill.
The president took to social media Thursday night to make his comments public.
“Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill. So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!”
On Thursday, Inhofe announced the NDAA’s completion, and the president responded a brief message: “But doesn’t get rid of Big Tech’s windfall, Section 230, a grave threat to National Security. I will VETO!”
“Section 230 has nothing to do with the military,” Inhofe told reporters at the Capitol, Newsweek reported. “I agree with his sentiment, we ought to do away with Section 230. But you can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a pertinent bill.”
I wish someone would make sure the president and Senator Inhofe hear my arguments against doing away with Section 230, because it will cement the tech tyrants in place as it kills the competition.
Rather than remove Section 230, the government should make it clear what Internet companies have to do to maintain platform status. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for government censorship of Internet companies, including the tech tyrants. Rather, I think that we can come up with a way to define what a platform is and make sure that Internet companies stay within the veil of that definition.
Internet companies that do not behave the way a platform is defined should lose their platform status and be deemed a publisher. For example, I can’t just post one of my stories on the New York Times’ website, because they are a publisher and they take responsibility the content that is posted on their website. On a platform, you should be able to post most of anything you want so long as it doesn’t violate the terms of service which would be things that are considered offensive to the general community. But when you start censoring people for political speech that you don’t agree with you are now a publisher no different from the New York times. You are blocking people from posting content to your platform, or rather, you are deciding who should be able to post content and who shouldn’t. That’s not a platform, that’s a publisher.
Facebook, Twitter and other tech tyrants who abuse Section 230 should be dealt with appropriately, but to remove the protections from other social media companies that abide by the platform standards would be harmed while the billionaire tech tyrants would be able to continue violating the rule. Removal would hurt new companies from being able to compete and would help the companies who violate the rule.
Rich is syndicated opinion columnist for David Harris Jr. and owner of Maga-Chat.com. He writes about politics, culture, liberty and faith.
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