The propagation of falsehood by Trump on the official social media channels of the POTUS has sparked some controversies in recent times. The social media giants, especially Facebook and Twitter, have marked many of Trump’s posts as controversial while deleting some of them and marking others as fake news.
This made Trump initiate the new controversy of repealing Section 230 to “control” the social media giants that have taken the matter to a whole new level since May 2020.
Section 230 is the Internet legislation in the United States that provides safe harbors to the big techs for operating without being prosecuted for the content they provide, as long as they take reasonable measures to prohibit that type of content.
Trump is continuously putting pressure on Congress to repeal Section 230 via various means. Recently he vetoed the defense bill worth $700 billion, as it had nothing to repeal the said clause. However, the Democrat-led Congress, along with a handful of Republican Congressmen, have voted against the veto by a two-thirds majority. The bill is now on its way to the Senate, where the veto is required to be overwritten by a similar majority.
Mitch McConnel has already signaled to repeal the vote against the veto and linked the action with a $2000 coronavirus stimulus check.
Why does Trump want to repeal Section 230? What can be the potential consequences of it? Will it really help to contain the fake news as Trump claims? Let’s have a look.
Trump’s Bid to Repeal Section 230 to Control Tech Giants
“Failure to terminate the very dangerous national security risk of Section 230 will make our intelligence virtually impossible to conduct without everyone knowing what we are doing at every step.”
Owing to a variety of fake news which Trump offers from the official accounts, his tussle with the social giants is not new.
Donald Trump always opined that Section 230 legislation enables the social media companies to target the conservative ideology, which is at the core of Republicans.
The problem is not the social media companies targeting the Republican legislatures. The problem lies in the falsified narrative which Trump has been building for quite a while now.
First, he tried to raise questions on the integrity of the presidential elections by pointing fingers toward the mail-in ballots.
Once he lost the elections, he used social media to further his narrative of the election fraud.
Similarly, he also criticized the Republican governors who did not support him in his Texas lawsuit along with the Supreme Court judges, the majority of whom are conservative.
This was one of the primary reasons why social media was hard on Trump and tried to contain fake speech from their respective forums.
The emergence of coronavirus was also one of the reasons why social media websites were more proactive in containing the fake narrative in 2020.
Trump Politicizing Section 230 with Coronavirus Stimulus Checks
“The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud.”
Republicans are trying to connect the repeal of Section 230 with the recently passed coronavirus stimulus check, under which $600 checks are to be given to qualified Americans.
First, Republicans opposed the Democratic demand of approving the bigger stimulus checks to those in need. In fact, this was one of the bones of contention that delayed the urgent bill, pushing the needy people into more chaos.
This show of the politics over the coronavirus stimulus bill has uncovered the traitors hidden in Congress. Many stakeholders are asking the question if Trump knew beforehand that a $600 check per individual wouldn’t be enough to tackle the crisis, why did he push the Republicans to pursue these checks in the first place?
Trump probably knew that Democrats wanted to get bigger checks approved, so he tried to cash in his other demands alongside the checks.
The interesting thing is that Democrats also want reforms in Section 230. Biden’s tech advisor, Bruce Reed, said,
“It’s long past time to hold the social media companies accountable for what’s published on their platforms.”
So, it’s apparent that both Republicans and Democrats are on the same page while initiating the reforms regarding Section 230, albeit their approaches are driven by different reasoning.
Biden thinks that these social media giants are allowing Trump to promote his conspiracy theories and fake narrative.
Section 230 and Fake News: Is this a Threat to Freedom of Speech?
The debate regarding limiting the freedom of speech often comes into the limelight, especially under the US Constitution. Absolute freedom of speech may, at times, become dangerous for democracy, hence curtailing the rights of other people. For instance, propagating false news under the umbrella of the freedom of speech from the most powerful office of the world can be dangerous, resulting in an infodemic.
The war of information can be disastrous if social media companies don’t regulate content by taking immediate actions against the accounts promoting the fake narrative.
Therefore, repealing Section 230 will help the conspiracy theories activists promote their narrative, which social media companies would remove otherwise.
Most of the time, these social media giants, alongside Google, have played a crucial role in containing fake news during the coronavirus crisis.
While Congress may seek reforms in the said act, any attempt to repeal it altogether must be opposed by Democrats.
As Trump vetoed the defense bill, saying the provision to repeal Section 230 should be added to it, a vote against the presidential veto by the House is an appreciable move.
It’s up to the Senate to negotiate the crisis. That seems highly unlikely, considering Mitch McConnel’s warning that they will not go against Trump until the $2000 stimulus check and Section 230 repeal is included in the defense bill.
Republicans are trying to make things as complex as possible to get the bill of their choice approved at the end of the day.
As Trump is busy with his last days in the White House pursuing some unusual things, his ambitions seem dangerous.
Probably the bigger demand of Donald Trump is to pursue the Congress to investigate the election frauds after January 2020, as this was also one of the demands of Trump to add in the defense bill.