The EARN IT Act is back in Congress

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have reintroduced the EARN IT Act, a bill that would undermine Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The EARN IT Act is described as an incentive for social media services to act online against child sexual abuse material (or CSAM). While the text of the bill was not immediately released, a summary indicates that it is similar to a proposal passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year. That bill limited the generally broad protections Section 230 “interactive computing services” affords against prosecution for user-generated content, and added special conditions for material that violates CSAM laws.

The sponsors of the original EARN IT Act praised the support of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other groups, and it targeted a surge in online child sexual abuse. But the bill was strongly condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union and many online civil liberties, sex workers and LGBT rights advocates — who argued it would encourage companies to give up strong encryption and privacy protections for users. Some of these groups, including Fight For the Future, have also made statements against the revived bill. The bill will be discussed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The EARN IT Act is one of several plans to add carveouts or conditions to Section 230, but so far it has been one of the few bills to gain significant traction, albeit not enough to get a vote for the Earn Senate floor. If passed, it would join the 2018 FOSTA-SESTA carveout, which stripped off the protections of sex work-related content — and has been widely blamed for a crackdown on sex workers online, as reports cast doubt on the its value as an anti-trafficking law.


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