by Malte Mansholt
December 2nd, 2020, 7:58 pm
Like no US president before him, Donald Trump has used social media in his favor. But in the last few months the relationship has cooled noticeably. Now the current president is even ready to endanger national security in order to damage Twitter and Co.
It was a kind of symbiosis: Donald Trump and social media seemed made for each other. Even during his candidacy in 2016, the current president managed to use social channels to his advantage like no one before him, while Twitter, Facebook and Co. benefited from the enormously increased commitment of the polarizing strategy. But that’s long gone. Because they no longer give him the freedom he wants, Trump wants to punish social networks. And is ready to go far for it.
The thorn in his side is Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates the protection of Internet sites from legal action. Trump described him tonight as a “serious threat to national security and the integrity of our elections.” The country could not be safe if the “very dangerous and unfair” section is not completely deleted, the president raged – ironically on Twitter. His extreme method of getting his way: he would block the national defense budget for next year if the proposal did not include a deletion of section 230.
Criticism from both sides
The section is considered one of the foundations for the modern internet. He ensures that platforms such as social media cannot be made legally responsible for the content posted there and instead leaves the moderation to the pages themselves. This practice has come under fire from both sides of the US political spectrum in recent months. While the Democrats see the often lax approach to hate speech, fake news and the like as a problem, the Republicans are concerned with exactly the opposite: They feel too manipulated by social media and claim to be disadvantaged. It was often the other way around on Facebook.
Trump stands between the chairs – and very close to himself. On the one hand, the president goes against the grain that Facebook and especially Twitter have let him get away with significantly less since this year. The two platforms did not delete his messages, but warned more and more of his tweets that the statements were controversial or even verifiably false; users first have to click on them to see the tweets. Since the current president rages more and more against an alleged manipulation of the election, more than every second tweet has been given the warning label.
On the other hand, Trump wants to forbid other users to shut up. According to internal reports, the current rant against Article 230 is said to have been triggered by users teasing Trump at a press conference on Thursday because the desk was too small. Twitter made fun of the supposed children’s table under the hashtag “Diaperdon” (Diaper Donald “), even Trump’s short-term communications chief Anthony Scaramucci made fun of his former boss. Trump is said to have cooked – and unceremoniously declared section 230 to be a national security risk.
Still no decision
It remains to be seen whether Trump will get the article changed in this way. It’s not the first time he’s threatened to veto the defense budget to get his way. Before that, he wanted to reject the budget law because it also provided for name changes for military bases, which were named after generals who had fought for the preservation of slavery in the US Civil War in the service of the southern states. According to insiders, Republicans had tried to offer Democratic MPs the name change as a trade against the change to Section 230, reports the Washington Post. However, that was largely rejected. The White House refused to answer a question from the newspaper about how Section 230 was a national security issue.
Whether Trump would really help abolishing Article 230 is another matter. If Twitter and Facebook could actually be sued for making false claims there and attacking other people, Trump’s opponents could of course also use this method. Whether Twitter would then fight for Trump’s rights or simply kick him out is far from being said.
Sources:https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1333965375193624578, Washington Post
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