WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vetoed a massive $740 billion defense spending bill on Wednesday, Dec. 23, because the measure keeps in place sweeping legal protections for Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act because it does not nix Section 230 which protects social media and technology giants from being sued over content that appears on their platforms.
“The Act fails even to make any meaningful changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, despite bipartisan calls for repealing that provision,” Trump said in his veto message.
Trump and other conservatives are upset with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube over whether social media sites and search engines restrict their voices and are biased against them. Section 230 defines social media companies as platforms and not as publishers which can open them to more legal actions.
Trump argued Section 230 also allows for foreign disinformation. “It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia,” Trump said.
Ironically, it has been Trump’s opponents who previously argue Russian disinformation was aimed at Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.
President-elect Joe Biden also argued some of the stories aimed at his son, Hunter Biden, and his foreign business deals during th 2020 campaign were also Russian disinformation. It was disclosed after the 2020 election that Hunter Biden is subject to federal tax investigations into those deals.
Trump also faulted the bill for allowing the potential renaming of U.S. military bases who are now named for Confederate generals or others some progressive advocates find offensive.
“Additionally, the Act includes language that would require the renaming of certain military installations. Over the course of United States history, these locations have taken on significance to the American story and those who have helped write it that far transcends their namesakes,” Trump said in his veto message.
“My Administration respects the legacy of the millions of American servicemen and women who have served with honor at these military bases, and who, from these locations, have fought, bled, and died for their country. From these facilities, we have won two World Wars. I have been clear in my opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to wash away history and to dishonor the immense progress our country has fought for in realizing our founding principles,” Trump said.
The issue of Confederate memorials has been in the forefront in Talbot County where activists have continued to push for removing the Talbot Boys statue from in front of the county courthouse. The Talbot Boys honors soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The Trump veto tests the political strength of social media titans and sets up an override battle with Congress which passed the defense bill by hefty margins including from Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., criticized Trump’s veto of the defense bill.
He countered Trump by saying the veto will be welcomed by “America’s adversaries”.
“The NDAA includes a pay raise for our troops, critical investments for Maryland’s military installations, and support for key national security priorities. Trump’s veto of this legislation – which has passed Congress and been signed into law without fail every year for the last sixty years – is shameful,” Van Hollen said in a statement.
“And he’s taking this unprecedented step because the bill does not include unrelated provisions to punish Twitter for fact-checking his lies and because it moves forward on renaming military bases that glorify those who fought with the Confederacy to protect slavery. It’s clear that once again President Trump is putting his ego and his own self-interest before the interests of the American people, our armed forces, and our national security. This veto will be welcome news to our adversaries. I urge a Congressional override of this action as soon as possible.” Van Hollen said.