Americans may be wondering why the most pro-military president of our lifetime would veto the $740 million-dollar National Defense Authorization Act? A bill that would have increased military personal wages our weapons budget, something Trump has done and supported since taking office in 2016.
According to his veto statement today, President Trump cited several reasons, the most obvious was being true to his word. Last week and before the Senate vote, which passed the bill 84-13, he acknowledged that he would veto the bill if it did not allow for removing our military from foreign countries and a repeal of Section 230, which provides protections for big tech. Under the Communications Decency Act, Section 230 grants them legal immunity from third-party content. Today he remained steadfast in that promise calling it, “A gift to China and Russia.”
Trump has spoken frequently about his opposition to Section 230, but it has been controversial on both sides of the aisle. In his veto today, the president points out that Section 230, “Make(s) our intelligence virtually impossible to conduct without everyone knowing what we are doing.” He went on to say that it, “facilitates the spread of foreign disinformation online, which is a serious threat to our national security and election integrity,” something the country has recently faced directly.
Further, he cited that restrictions on the President from removing our military from foreign countries is, “Not only bad policy but unconstitutional.” Other reasons in his statement included renaming military installations, and restrictions on the President to access military construction funds without Congressional approval, which has been instrumental in allowing President Trump to construct part of the southern border wall.
Section 230 has been and continues to be a double-edged sword. Opposition to the president on Section 230 has come from both Democrats and Republicans. Those protections allow social media platforms to publish free-speech online without consequence, barring notable exceptions such as pirated media and illegal pornography. These powers have additionally led to abuse in recent years and have also granted these companies the ability to censor or regulate free-speech on their platforms.
Being only 26-words long and enacted 20 years ago, Section 230 may be due for an overhaul considering the advancement of technology. Ironically, Ron Wyden, the Democrat Senator from Oregon who created Section 230, believes that social media has not done enough to regulate free speech. Wyden acknowledges the intent of Section 230 was to provide a legal shield to these companies. Still, it also was meant to give companies a sword so that they can take down offensive content, lies, and slime — the stuff that may be protected by the First Amendment but that most people do not want to experience online.” President Trump issued an Executive Order in May, asking the FCC to step up regulation of social media sites and reconsider if they should be allowed to police themselves, however so far, the FCC seems uninterested.