Digital rights group Fight for the Future reiterates its opposition to the EARN IT Act, a censorship and surveillance bill that risks the rights and safety of all who depend on encrypted services while making children less, not more, safe.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are reintroducing the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act, or EARN IT Act, a censorship and surveillance bill that was twice shelved after a massive public outcry by leading human rights and LGBTQ+ groups and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future, which organized a viral online campaign at NoEarnItAct.org that generated more than 600,000 opposition letters to US lawmakers, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to the group’s director, Evan Greer (she/her):
“When the EARN IT Act was previously reintroduced in 2022, I called it ‘one of the most poorly conceived and dangerous pieces of Internet legislation I have seen in my entire career.’ Well, it’s back again, and I stand by that statement.
EARN IT is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that would actually make kids far LESS safe online, not more safe. It’s morally repugnant that lawmakers would push censorship and surveillance bills like KOSA and EARN IT instead of working on things we know for a fact would help kids, like passing a strong federal data privacy law and increasing access to mental health resources.
If passed, the EARN IT Act would risk the safety and rights of millions of people around the globe by attacking online encryption. Encryption isn’t optional: it’s a necessary technology relied on by government agencies, journalists, activists, and people living under anti-human rights laws.
Without strong encryption, places like hospitals and power plants become vulnerable to hackers. Encryption protects people navigating oppressive laws, like anti-abortion laws and anti-LGBTQ+ laws, from government surveillance. If online encryption is broken, law enforcement could look through people’s chat records to charge them for seeking, providing, or assisting abortion care or gender-affirming care. Supporting EARN IT is completely unconscionable for any lawmaker concerned with human rights and healthcare access.
But EARN IT’s problems are larger than its attacks on encryption. It’s also a censorship Trojan Horse. Like SESTA/FOSTA before it, EARN IT creates a carveout in Section 230 that would push tech companies to over-censor their platforms in order to reduce their legal liability. Studies have shown that when Section 230 protections evaporate, platforms over-target marginalized communities and place people in life-threatening danger by tearing down harm reduction infrastructure.
EARN IT is completely at odds with the goal of making kids safer online. Increasing online surveillance and censoring critical resources doesn’t protect people. Instead, it puts them at a higher risk of criminalization, isolation, and harm. We’ll do everything in our power to stop this human rights disaster from advancing.”