U.S. Congress must oppose EARN IT Act, uphold freedom of expression and privacy

Today, Access Now joined over 130+ LGTBQ+, human rights, civil rights, and other digital rights organizations calling on Congress to protect freedom of expression and privacy by opposing the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2023 (EARN IT).

This bill, under the guise of addressing child online sexual exploitation, would undermine law enforcement’s ability to protect children and could result in more harm, and may lead to overbroad censorship of online speech and negatively impact diverse communities, including LGBTQ+ people.

The EARN IT Act is a misguided attempt to address the problem of child sexual abuse material online. If passed, the EARN IT Act will undermine all the free speech, security, and privacy of all people in the U.S. Congress will spend years mopping up the mess. Encryption is essential for cybersecurity and a healthy democracy, preventing attacks on our country, the economy, and individual liberty. Encryption backdoors will inevitably risk the privacy of anyone using the service. Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now

EARN IT would establish a new government commission to set “best practices” for online platforms to remove child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from their services. Failure to comply with those standards could lead to companies losing their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and being held directly liable for user content. 

Alarmingly, these “best practices” could result in companies providing law enforcement with special backdoor access to private, encrypted communications, undermining security and human rights. Millions of people in the United States — including Congress, journalists, the military, domestic violence survivors, union organizers, immigrants, and anyone who seeks to keep their communications secure from malicious hackers — rely on encryption to secure their daily activities. Police in states where abortion is illegal have already used unencrypted digital evidence to prosecute women and pregnant people. 

For the past three years, dozens of organizations and experts have warned about the privacy and censorship risks associated with the EARN IT Act. If passed, the EARN IT Act will undermine free speech and the security and privacy of all people in the U.S. Access Now continues to oppose the bill in collaboration with partners in the public interest, and encourages people to contact elected officials and urge them to vote against the EARN IT Act.