Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Anti-Privacy ‘EARN IT Act’

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee success the EARN IT act, a bill that weakens section 230 protections for social media companies in an effort to combat child abuse online.


Since its introduction by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), it has undergone changes that make it weaker than the original. The original form of the bill would have removed the protections afforded to social media companies under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They would lose their protections if they did not meet third party standards to detect and remove images of child abuse.

But the ACLU says it could go further:

By requiring platforms to largely control and censor speech to which children may be exposed online, the EARN IT Act Commission can recommend best practices that disproportionately censor, among other things: sex education materials , online support systems and communities for young transgender and non-transgender people. -binary […]

This third party would be a federal commission headed by Attorney General William Barr to create a set of “best practices” for companies to follow if they want to be protected by section 230. The commission would have the power to set different types of rules , like getting businesses to create backdoors for encryption and implement age verification systems, as long as the commission could argue that the rules would tackle child abuse online.

Critics have called it an anti-encrypted bill that would weaken the privacy of Internet users. The original bill could give law enforcement access to private communications. A amendment [PDF] has been filed to address concerns, but it still gives states the opportunity to sue social media companies.

The bill is now being voted on in the Senate.

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