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Cybersecurity & Standards, Free Expression, Privacy & Data

CDT Leads Broad Human Rights Coalition Urging Senate to Drop EARN IT Act

A portion of the coalition letter has been copied and pasted below. Read the full coalition letter here.


Re: Opposition to the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2022 (EARN IT Act)

Dear Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the Committee:

The undersigned organizations write to express our strong opposition to the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2022 (EARN IT, S.3538). We support curbing the scourge of child exploitation online. However, EARN IT will actually make it harder for law enforcement to protect children. It will also result in online censorship that will disproportionately impact marginalized communities and will jeopardize access to encrypted services. Dozens of organizations and experts warned this committee of these risks when this bill was previously considered, and all of those same risks remain. We urge you to oppose this bill.

Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 230) generally shields online intermediaries from liability for the content users convey on their platforms. This helps to promote free expression online, which is further supported by the use of strong end-to-end encryption. Section 230 has never been a bar to federal criminal prosecution of intermediaries and current federal law imposes criminal liability on service providers who have knowledge that they are distributing child sexual abuse material (CSAM). And current law requiring providers to report these images results in millions of reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children every year. EARN IT would vastly expand the liability risk of hosting or facilitating user-generated content by permitting states to impose criminal liability when providers are “reckless” or “negligent” in keeping CSAM off their platforms; EARN IT also exposes them to civil liability under state laws with similar mens rea requirements but subject to much lower standards of proof. These changes will threaten our ability to speak freely and securely online, and threaten the very prosecutions the bill seeks to enable.


The EARN IT Act would have devastating consequences for everyone’s ability to share and access information online, and to do so in a secure manner. We urge you to oppose this bill. Congress should instead consider more tailored approaches to deal with the real harms of CSAM online. Please direct any questions about this letter to the Center for Democracy & Technology’s Emma Llansó, Director of the Free Expression Project at [email protected] or Greg Nojeim, Director of the Freedom, Security & Technology Project at [email protected].


Access Now

Advocacy for Principled Action in Government

Advocating Opportunity

American Civil Liberties Union

American Library Association



Black and Pink

Black and Pink Massachusetts

Center for Democracy & Technology

Chicago House & Social Service Agency

Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)

Copia Institute

Defending Rights & Dissent

Due Process Institute

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fight for the Future

Free Press Action

Free Speech Coalition

Freedom Network USA

Freedom to Read Foundation


Global Partners Digital

Global Voices

Human Rights Campaign

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Internet Society

ISOC India, Hyderabad Chapter

JCA-NET (Japan)

Law and Technology Research Institute of Recife (IP.rec)

LGBT Technology Partnership

Media Alliance


Mozilla Foundation

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition Against Censorship

New America’s Open Technology Institute

Oakland Privacy

Old Pros


PEN America

Privacy and Access Council of Canada

Progressive Technology Project

Public Knowledge

R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales

Ranking Digital Rights

Reframe Health and Justice

Restore the Fourth

S.T.O.P. – The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project

The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center

Society of Professional Journalists

Software Freedom Law Center, New York

SWOP Behind Bars

Tech for Good Asia



Wikimedia Foundation

Woodhull Freedom Foundation


Youth Forum for Social Justice

Read the full coalition letter here.