EARN IT Act Reintroduced, Draws Criticism Over Encryption Implications

Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images

Sens. Graham and Rosenthal reintroduced 2020’s Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act, but advocacy groups fear it misses the target in restricting content.

The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies, or EARN IT Act, was reintroduced into the U.S. Senate on Monday, reopening the potential for Congress to impose stricter penalties related to online content featuring child sex abuse material.

A key pillar of the proposed legislation is augmenting the provisions outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from being liable for third party content hosted on their domains. 

Should the EARN IT Act pass, it would limit the blanket protections established in Section 230 given to web hosts such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, leaving them vulnerable to potential prosecution.

“There are tens of millions of photos and videos circulating throughout the internet, showing the most heinous acts of sexual abuse and torture of children,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, one of the bill’s sponsors. “The EARN IT Act removes Section 230 blanket liability protection from service providers in the area of child sexual abuse material on their sites. The days of children being exploited on the internet and their families being unable to do anything about it are coming to an end.”

In addition to reducing liability protections against host sites, the EARN IT Act would also establish the National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention, which would advise online service providers on how to prevent online child abuse and exploitation. 

Initially introduced in the 2019-2020 Congress by both Graham and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, the bill brings a slew of bipartisan cosponsors, including Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Maggie Hassan, D-NH; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. 

Many of these lawmakers view the EARN IT Act as an important restriction on the power and immunity of Big Tech companies. 

“There’s no reason Big Tech should be given special immunity from laws against child pornography,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “This commonsense bill was approved unanimously in committee last Congress. Big Tech needs to be held responsible for their role in distributing child pornography.”

The bill is not without controversy, however. Critics have said that as part of its crackdown on child abuse content, it may incentivize web hosts to relax their end-to-end encryption standards to better access users’ private messages.

“The EARN IT Act also takes aim at end-to-end encryption, which is one of the most important technologies keeping people safe from violence and abuse,” digital rights group Fight for the Future said in a statement on Tuesday. “Strong encrypted messaging also protects our hospitals, schools, airports and water treatment facilities. Disincentivizing popular services from offering strong encryption to users will put lives in danger for absolutely no benefit.”

Back in 2020, when the bill was first introduced, over 20 other nonprofits and advocacy groups cosigned a letter addressed to Graham and Feinstein warning of threats posed to vulnerable demographics should encrypted messages be weakened. 

“In addition to censorship concerns, the EARN IT Act also threatens to disincentivize platforms from providing strong encryption, which is an essential service to the LGBTQ community, who rely on encryption to access a support network; seek resources to combat discrimination and abuse; and find doctors and treatment to assist with transition and other health concerns,” the letter reads. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.