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Cybersecurity & Standards, Free Expression, Privacy & Data

CDT Leads US & International Coalition Letter to US Senate Against the EARN IT Act

Re: Opposition to the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020 (EARN IT Act)

Dear Senator:

The undersigned organizations write to express our strong opposition to the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020 (EARN IT, S.3398). We support curbing the scourge of child exploitation online. However, EARN IT will result in online censorship that will disproportionately impact marginalized communities, will jeopardize access to encrypted services, and will place at risk the prosecutions of the very abusers the law is meant to catch. We urge you to object to any motion for unanimous consent to place the bill on the Senate floor and to vote NO on passage of the bill in its current form.

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 promotes free expression and allows for the use of robust end-to-end encryption. Section 230 has never been a bar to federal criminal prosecution of intermediaries and current law imposes federal 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 law. This change will threaten our ability to speak freely and securely online, and threaten the very prosecutions the bill seeks to enable.

Read the full letter, including the signatories here.

Read the press release here.