Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, a bill that allegedly protects children from online sexual predators but will, in reality, further government’s insatiable desire to control the internet and free speech.
According to members of the committee, the EARN IT Act would “carve out” liability protection given to online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (via TheHill.com):
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act would carve out liability protection given to online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, opening companies up to federal and state lawsuits for hosting content exploiting children.
It would also create a national commission to develop best practices to address the harmful material online.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), was also advanced through committee when it was first introduced in 2020 but never received a floor vote.
The reintroduction of the bill earlier this month has drawn intense backlash. (emphasis mine)
Some of the backlash comes from concerns about how the bill will open online platforms to unrestricted government and private surveillance, a concern shared in the first edition of the EARN IT Act when Lindsey Graham revealed the true intention of the bill: government control of the internet.
It begins, as usual, with Donald Trump.
Motivated by his narcissism and his desire to control free speech whenever it was used to criticize him, Trump proposed issuing an executive order in 2019 given the Orwellian politispeak title “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship.” The order — officially issued May 2020 as Executive Order 13925 — called for the FCC to create new rules to determine when Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should apply and when it shouldn’t.
A few weeks prior to Trump’s executive order, Lindsey Graham — who has a long history of favoring government-controlled speech — teamed up with Sen. Richard Blumenthal to introduce the EARN IT Act, a bill that gives the federal government complete control over free speech and online privacy by granting or denying Section 230 protection for social media platforms based on their “compliance” with rules established by the government, for the government.
Graham’s intentions were made crystal clear in hearings he held at the time with attorneys representing the Internet Association, a tech trade group with companies like Facebook and Google as members.
In a lame attempt to defend his attempt to seize control of the internet, Graham said he didn’t “buy anything” tech companies had to say on the matter, and he accused them of only caring about not getting sued. He then threatened to pass additional legislation that would completely strip the tech industry of Section 230 protection if the EARN IT Act failed to pass due to their opposition.
And as we all know, nothing says “this is a good bill” like threatening anyone who opposes it with the hammer and cycle of big government.
Lindsey Graham also assured those attending the hearing that the EARN IT Act “is not a backdoor encryption bill” because such access to metadata would require “congressional approval” in order to “ensure the approach is reasonable and considers the impact of data security and privacy.”
I guess since Congress will be reasonable and considerate about how they destroy liberty, we’ve got nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately, the 2022 edition of the EARN IT Act is just as bad as its predecessor because it doesn’t just move us closer to government control of the internet, it also fails to protect children from sexual predators while simultaneously giving predators a “get-out-of-jail-free” card (via Slate.com):
The EARN IT Act is back, and worse than it ever was before. Like the 2020 version, the proposal would still give child predators a get-out-of-jail-free card and would still undermine the fight against child predation online.
Although well-intentioned, the bill would undermine our children’s safety—and actively put them at risk—by disrupting the delicate constitutional balance that allows online platforms to voluntarily search for illicit and illegal material and report it to authorities without violating the Fourth Amendment—which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
Simply put, this would end up giving criminals a way to challenge their convictions for child sexual abuse material. And to be extremely clear—it’s already a criminal offense to produce or distribute child sexual abuse content.
As it stands, most companies that host online content voluntarily turn over huge amounts of potential evidence of child abuse to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Because private companies search for this evidence voluntarily, courts have held that the searches are not subject to the Fourth Amendment.
But the EARN IT Act threatens to disrupt this relationship by using the threat of endless litigation and criminal prosecution to strongly pressure private companies to proactively search for illegal material. Thanks to how the EARN IT Act amends Section 230, companies are more exposed to civil and criminal liability if they don’t follow the government’s “or else” threat and search for child sexual abuse material. (emphasis mine)
Disrupting Destroying the Fourth Amendment — along with the First Amendment — is exactly what Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal have in mind, which is why their legislation includes a threat demanding that tech companies do as government tells them to do . . . or else!
I’ve shared this video in the past, but if you’d like a primer on Section 230 and the motivation behind people like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tucker Carlson, and others who want to see it destroyed with legislation like the EARN IT Act in order to give government complete control of the internet, check out the YouTube video below from the folks at Reason.com.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.