The EARN It Act is Back and Coming for Social Media Companies

U.S. Capitol Building

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have reintroduced their EARN It Act. The bill aims to reform Section 230, Protocol reports.

EARN It Act

First introduced in 2020, the bill’s goal is to remove protections for social media companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They lose protections if they don’t meet third-party standards to detect and remove online child sexual abuse material, and have to earn them back. Early drafts of the bill made meeting the standards mandatory, but in this new form the EARN It Act makes them voluntary.

It’s meant to help fight online child sexual abuse material but has overreaching effects. At the time it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ACLU said:

By requiring platforms to broadly monitor and censor speech to which children might be exposed online, the EARN IT Act’s commission may recommend best practices that disproportionately censor, among other things: sex education materials, online support systems and communities for youth who are transgender or non-binary […]

Under Section 230, platforms are only held liable for violations under federal criminal law. The latest version of the EARN It Act would remove Sec. 230 immunity from state and federal civil laws, as well as state criminal laws for CSAM. It also also creates a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention. The Commission would be made up of the heads of the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Trade Commission, and over a dozen members appointed by Congress.

In a statement, Sen. Blumenthal said: “Tech companies have long had ready access to low-cost, or even free tools to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse material but have failed to act.”

Currently, many companies around the world use CSAM detection technology that was developed by Microsoft. PhotoDNA can find and remove known images of CSAM and Microsoft says is has “assisted in the detection, disruption, and reporting of millions of such material.

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