Trump can still do a lot of damage with just three weeks left to his presidency, but Biden will take over on January 20, 2021. Getting rid of Trump won’t fix America’s broken democracy, but it is a good start. If the Democrats can win the Georgia Senate races, things should go much smoother for the new administration. The big cry baby who only seems to care about himself is holding up important legislation because Twitter and Facebook took down a few of his posts. Mitch McConnell tied three bills together, putting off the vote till next year. He has combined the vote on increasing COVID-19 relief checks from $600 to $2,000 with the repeal of section 230 and another bill that Trump wants which would appoint a special committee to investigate election fraud. The Democrats won’t be having any of that, because Trump has already wasted too much time with this election fraud nonsense. McConnell did urge senators to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders is making this more difficult by staging a filibuster on the override of President Donald Trump’s defense bill veto, unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans. America stands divided!
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a 26-word portion of the 1996 law that created the Internet as we know it. The Court ruled the CDA to be unconstitutionally overbroad because it suppressed a significant amount of protected adult speech in the effort to protect minors from potentially harmful speech, thus violating the First Amendment, as removing pornography from the internet contrasts with freedom of speech. Congress then passed the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA) with the intent of preventing minors (under 17 years of age) from accessing obscene material on commercial Web sites, which targeted the Internet transmission of material harmful to minors distributed for commercial purposes. Heated political arguments over censorship and misinformation on this issue still continue as Democrats want companies like Facebook to do more to police disinformation, while Republicans claiming censorship of conservative views want to make internet companies do less policing. Section 230 is controversial, but it allows people to post what they want online, and the websites don’t get sued for it, because of their legal shield.
Section 230 in conjunction with Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enable the modern internet to function by allowing everyone to post content online, and by providing intermediary liability protections to websites and apps to allow them to remove or moderate inappropriate content. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, including President-elect Joe Biden have voiced their complaints about Section 230, but many Democrats disagree with this and the prospect of repealing Section 230 is most likely a deal breaker for many lawmakers, as some of its protections are important for the continued function of an open and relatively safe internet.
When the law was written, site owners worried they could be sued if they exercised any control over what appeared on their sites, so the law includes a provision that says that, so long as sites act in “good faith”, they can remove content that is offensive or otherwise objectionable. In July, Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus. Twitter has become much more aggressive in recent months in either removing tweets posted by the president, fact-checking them in real time or even placing warning labels over them and they temporarily locked out Donald Trump Jr. Twitter account after he posted a controversial video that promoted hydroxychloroquine. President Trump contends that Section 230 gives big internet companies too much legal protection and allows them to escape responsibility for their actions.
Trump has called to repeal the law and signed an executive order attempting to curb some of its protections, though the order has been challenged in court. More recently, he threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense funding bill, if it does not revoke Section 230. Trump seized on the once-obscure legal provision after wrangling with Twitter back in May. The social media platform put fact-checking labels on some of his tweets that claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots were fraudulent. Trump then signed an executive order seeking to peel away the sweeping legal immunity social media companies and other online sites have long used as a shield against an avalanche of lawsuits.
I hope that our legislators refrain from changing, disturbing, or becoming involved in section 230 as this will cause more problems or worsen the problem that we have. Just because Trump is a cry baby, that is no reason to upset the apple cart and I am afraid that if we don’t leave well enough alone, that we will only end up with a lot of lawsuits and that will just benefit the rich. My biggest fear is that America may never recover from all the damage that Trump has done over the last four years.
Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #102 which asks, “What do you fear the most?”