More than 12,000 people demand that Congress reject the dangerous, new EARN IT Act

Posted March 6, 2020, 12:31 PM

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Digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched a petition urging members of Congress to renounce a bill that threatens free speech and privacy online

Today, Senators Lindsey Graham (R–SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D–CT) released the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act — or EARN IT Act, for short. But digital rights group Fight for the Future has already responded by rallying more than 12,000 people to oppose this dangerous legislation.

If passed into law, the EARN IT Act would give the Attorney General sweeping powers to establish and enforce a set of “best practices” that tech companies must follow to protect minors from sexual exploitation online. But let’s be very clear: this bill will make all of us — including children — less safe, not more safe. 

You see, the EARN IT Act deliberately fails to define the specific best practices tech companies must follow, allowing the Attorney General to effectively change the law with little-or-no oversight from the Congress. Any company that refuses to comply with the Attorney General’s demands could lose important legal protections provided by CDA 230, putting the company at risk of crippling lawsuits and criminal prosecution. In practice, this means that the Attorney General can determine what happens on digital platforms, and threaten to shut them down if they don’t obey.

Graham and Attorney General William Barr have both spoken out against tech companies that use digital encryption systems to keep people safe from hacking, data breaches, and government surveillance. And the EARN IT Act seems tailor-made to grant them the authority to effectively kill digital encryption. But the EARN IT Act is written so broadly that it could also be used to force tech companies to validate identities, retain communications, and even restrict access to content. 

Fight for the Future has launched an online petition urging Congress to reject the EARN IT Act, and the petition has already attracted over 12,000 signatures. The digital rights organization plans on submitting copies of the petition and signatories to key members of Congress as a show of opposition to the bill.

“The EARN IT Act will make children less safe, not more safe,” said Evan Greer (she/her), Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, “Encryption protects our airports, power plants, and the water treatment facilities that our children drink from. This bill sets the stage for backdoors in encryption that put everyone in danger. And it potentially opens the floodgates for widespread Internet censorship in the process. This is one of the most misguided pieces of Internet legislation we’ve seen in a decade. We’re not going to let this happen.”

Anyone wishing to sign Fight for the Future’s petition can do so here: