NCAC has joined over two dozen organizations in opposing the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020 (known as the EARN IT Act). We support curbing the scourge of child abuse online. As written, the EARN IT Act currently before the US Senate won’t do that. It will, however, result in online censorship that will disproportionately impact marginalized communities, will jeopardize access to encrypted services, and will place at risk the prosecutions of the very abusers the law is meant to catch.
Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 generally shields online intermediaries from liability for the content users post on their platforms. This promotes free expression and allows for the use of robust end-to-end encryption. Section 230 has never been a bar to federal criminal prosecution of intermediaries and current law imposes federal criminal liability on service providers who have knowledge that they are distributing child sexual abuse material. And current law requiring providers to report these images results in millions of reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children every year. EARN IT would vastly expand the liability risk of hosting or facilitating user-generated content and exposes providers to civil liability under state law. This change will threaten our ability to speak freely and securely online, and threaten the very prosecutions the bill seeks to enable.
The EARN IT Act threatens free expression, jeopardizes the security of our communications and risks undermining child abuse prosecutions.
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