Sep 12 · 2 min readAs America is hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, a bill sweeps through congress at a moment where people are paying the least attention to it. The bill, known as Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT for short), undermines American people and companies online rights by letting the Attorney General dictate how online services operate.EARN IT undermines section 230, known as the most important law protecting freedom of speech online. Section 230 enforces that if someone does something illegal online, the person should be responsible, not the service they posted said illegal thing on. Without Section 230, Social Media would not be allowed to exist as we know it, and platforms then millions use everyday, such as Wikipedia and Archive.org, would be made potentially illegal. EARN IT would create a “National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention.” This Commission would include the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and 12 other members handpicked by leaders in Congress. The Commission would be tasked with recommending “best practices for providers of interactive computer services regarding the prevention of online child exploitation conduct.” But far from mere recommendations, those “best practices” would bring the force of law. Platforms that failed to adhere to them would be stripped of their Section 230 protections if they were accused (either in civil or criminal court) of carrying unlawful material relating to child exploitation. However, nearly every social media has some sort of unlawful material related to children, because there is no clear cut way to get rid of such a thing.
Even worse, if the Attorney General disagreed with the newfound Council, he could override them and write his own rules instead. Simply said, giving the Department of Justice control over information on the internet is a very bad idea.We already know what the Attorney General Barr will do with his newfound power. He will undermine American’s security by giving law enforcement and government agencies absolute access to data by creating laws that make it so companies are required to make back doors for law enforcement through their products. This could take the form of straight-up mandated backdoors, or subtler but no less dangerous “solutions” such as client-side scanning. These demands would put encryption providers like WhatsApp and Telegram in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a single lawsuit or knowingly undermine their own users’ security, making all of us more vulnerable to criminals.
And EARN-IT wouldn’t even have an effect on the DOJ’s ability to prosecute online platforms, making the entire bill unnecessary.EARN IT is an attack on American security, undermining privacy and freedom of speech online.