Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up the “EARN IT Act,” a bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and others to increase the liability of platforms with respect to unlawful child abuse material.
Congress needs to act to slow the spread of such material; to increase law enforcement resources to find and arrest those who create and spread it; and to encourage platforms to take steps to protect children that respect all users’ security and privacy. However, the EARN IT Act creates a process that could harm user security and privacy by disincentivizing the use of privacy-protecting technologies such as encryption. This would be destructive and unnecessary. Public Knowledge has joined more than 60 public interest groups and other organizations in a letter urging Congress to oppose the bill.
The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:
“The EARN IT Act will weaken the privacy and security of everyday communication services without any net benefit to public safety or the protection of children.
“The convoluted process it sets up appears designed to discourage platforms from allowing users to secure their communications. But making it easier for police and platforms to monitor user communications makes it easier for hackers, foreign governments, and even rogue employees to do so, as well.
“When the EARN IT Act was first introduced, we asked why so many people were willing to trust the Attorney General (and other officials) with so much power over the design of communication services. This is true whether the Attorney General is a Democrat or a Republican.
“There is room for platforms to do more to protect children and promote public safety in many ways, including through product design. But this should not involve compromising the security of everyday, law-abiding internet users.”
You may view our letter to Congress opposing the EARN IT Act for encouraging online censorship and jeopardizing access to encrypted services. You may also view our factsheet, “EARN IT Act Does Not Do Enough to Protect Encryption or Competition,” for more information on our concerns.
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