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Trump threatens veto of defense bill unless Congress nixes Section 230

The president's battle with social media reaches new heights with this ultimatum against the annual funding bill.


President Trump threatened to veto funding for national security if Congress doesn't repeal Section 230.

Erin Schaff/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto a major annual defense bill if Congress doesn't strike down a federal law that shields social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from lawsuits over the content their users post.

Trump issued the ultimatum against Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act in a pair of tweets Tuesday evening that represent the latest escalation in the president's perceived notion that the Silicon Valley powerhouses are working to censor conservatives.

"Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the US to 'Big Tech' (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity," Trump tweeted.

If the "very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)," Trump wrote in a tweet thread, "I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk."

The threat comes as lawmakers are days away from finalizing the $740.5 billion annual authorization bill, which helps determine troop levels and new weapons systems, among other national defense decisions. Neither the House nor Senate versions of the bill include legislation about Section 230, according to Bloomberg.

Some Republicans have reportedly urged Trump not to jeopardize the defense bill over Section 230. 

"230 has nothing to do with the military," Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill. "I agree with his sentiments ... but you can't do it in this bill. That's not a part of the bill." Inhofe reportedly said he conveyed this message to Trump.

Section 230 is a decades-old law that protects online publishers from liability for the content generated by users and posted to their sites. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have railed against the law, agreeing it must be changed. 

Calls for change come amid Republicans' criticism of social media companies and their CEOs. Republicans claim they're biased against conservative views and give liberal politicians a pass. Democrats, meanwhile, argue that the Section 230 shield prevents social media companies from doing more to moderate their platforms and take down or limit content, such as hate speech and disinformation about COVID-19 and the elections.

The ultimatum comes as Trump still refuses to admit publicly that he has lost to former Vice President Joe Biden. Social media posts from the sitting president have falsely claimed the election was stolen. And Trump has continued to tweet and retweet items that contain disputed information, prompting Twitter to slap warning labels on those posts. Additionally, baseless claims of election fraud from a variety of sources have also appeared on Twitter, as well as YouTube and Facebook.