Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Trump has until midnight to decide on NDAA veto; override sessions to start in House Dec 28 but procedurally complicated in Senate


US Army museum

Today Adam Smith (D-WA), head of the House Armed Services Committee, appeared on CNN and said that Trump has to midnight tonight to sign the NDAA (with no mention of Section 230). He promised that Congress would overturn the veto Dec 28 and 29 in this Congress. Here is Smith's tweet to Trump. 

The Hill (Rebecca Kjeel), a somewhat conservative publication, writes that the House will meet Dec 28.  There are some concerns about Republicans who are loyal to Trump maintaining the override. But Democrats could have other switchovers and are more willing to vote in absentia. There are some cloture issues in the Senate could delay the final vote right up to the wire on Sunday, January 3.

Politico has a simpler account by Connor O’Brien. 

Senator Rand Paul supports a veto for a different recent. Afghanistan. 

A failure to override would mean a bill needs to be reintroduced and renumbered into the next Congress.  While it sounds simple to just copy a bill’s text, the procedural hurdles are substantial, but presumably Biden could sign one the afternoon of January 20.

Could Congress just repeal Section 230 in one sentence to get a bill passed?  The unthinkable, perhaps. Like a "weakless universe". 

In any case, there is almost no talk of what tech companies would do immediately if Section 230 were suddenly yanked away from them.  A relevant question is how is this handled in the EU, and there is an e-commerce directive which is conceptually similar in protecting some platforms from downstream liability (source), but it is more limited with many takedowns mandatory (like a safe harbor). There is some discussion on a Wordpress blog of mine Dec. 17.  This should be compared to the controversy over the EU Copyright Directive.

Web hosting companies and operations like Google Blogger, Automattic Wordpress might at some point be viewed as “common carriers” but there is no law now saying that (there are court opinions from the 1990s before 230 that suggest this).  YouTube is closer to conventional social networking because of its algorithms.  The most vulnerable to loss of 230 would be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.  We don’t know if they would wholesale remove smaller users, because they might not have much of a business left. 

In any case, the hearings on Section 230 in October and November left the impression that Republicans and Democrats are far apart on what changes to 230 are needed.  Biden wants to get rid of 230 entirely, but will probably allow Congress to hash it out.  Biden may be under the impression that common carrier law protects web hosts now.

In general, we could very well see a climate where platforms and even hosts or carriers want users to show commercial viability, which is bad for users like me who work alone and have little interest in transactional commerce.  I would have to discuss how I would function in such an environment soon, but I have already said my own environment must be greatly simplified and reduced with my “doaskdotell” domain name expires in December 2021 (in less than one year).

Trump, as we know, also might veto the stimulus bill, as he wants a larger check to individuals, but that sounds much more benign.

I don’t think Trump has had a veto overridden yet.

Update:  Here is a WhiteHouse statement (with the veto -- see comment). Yahoo Finance included the quote (reprint of a Bloomberg article) and discusses smaller review sites and 230. 

1 comment:

Bill Boushka said...

3:26 PM CNN reports that Trump has just vetoed the law.