While everyone is focusing on the coronavirus and all that is encompassed with that, Congress is attempting to pass the EARN IT Act.
The Act states it would establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention, and for other purposes. The purpose of the Commission is to develop recommended best practices that providers of interactive computer services may choose to implement to prevent, reduce, and respond to the online sexual exploitation of children, including the enticement, grooming, sex trafficking, and sexual abuse of children and the proliferation of online child sexual abuse material.
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] has sponsored the bill and hearing have been held at the start of last week, in the midst of this pandemic.
This act is an end-to-end encryption bill that would give the government access to your personal information, including your messages and calls.
A lot of skepticism has come along with the EARN IT Act.
According to The Guardian, the act has widely been seen as an opening salvo in a renewed war on end-to-end encryption, with the U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) regularly criticizing technology companies for creating products, such as iMessage and WhatsApp, which cannot be intercepted by law enforcement.
According to The Verge, if the EARN IT Act were passed, tech companies could be held liable if their users posted illegal content. This would represent a significant and potentially devastating amendment to Section 230, a much-misunderstood law that many consider a pillar of the internet and the businesses that operate on top of it. When internet companies become liable for what their users post, those companies aggressively moderate speech.
This act “would give government officials unprecedented powers to craft de facto regulations for online speech. Online service providers would almost certainly err on the side of caution and take down anything – including a lot of lawful, constitutionally protected speech – that the attorney general might not like,” says Emma Llansó of the Centre for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit organization.
While fighting for and focusing on reducing child exploitation is something of great importance, the EARN IT Act is an undeniable attack on encryption and will affect how companies operate and potentially your privacy.