February 02, 2022

Wyden on Reintroduction of the EARN IT Act: Political Attacks on Encryption Will Make Children Less Safe, Won’t Aid Victims or Catch Predators Who Prey On Kids

Graham-Blumenthal Bill Targets Private Communications; Uses Failed SESTA-FOSTA Model; Section 230 Does Not Protect Platforms Against Federal Prosecution for Distributing CSAM

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., urged his colleagues to listen to human rights leaders, press freedom advocates and the broad coalition of civil society groups that opposed the EARN IT Act of 2020, following the reintroduction of the bill.

“This sadly misguided bill will not protect children. It will not stop the spread of vile child exploitation material or target the monsters that produce it. And it does not spend a single dollar to invest in prevention services for vulnerable children and youth or help victims and their families by providing evidence-based and trauma-informed resources. Instead, the EARN IT Act threatens the privacy and security of law-abiding Americans by targeting any form of private, secure devices and communication. As a result, the bill will make it easier for predators to track and spy on children and also harm the free speech and free expression of vulnerable groups,” Wyden said. “I have spent my career in the Senate fighting to protect kids and aid victims of abuse, and I will do everything in my power to ensure every single monster responsible for exploiting children or spreading horrific CSAM materials is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But this bill does nothing to turn around the Justice Department’s tragic failure to prioritize child welfare and abuse cases.”

CSAM is illegal under federal law, meaning websites and internet platforms have no protection under Section 230 from federal prosecution, and websites are required to report and preserve any evidence of CSAM they find. Several experts say EARN IT will make it more difficult to prosecute criminal predators.

The EARN IT Act of 2022 mirrors previous versions, which were condemned by a broad array of civil liberties, human rights and internet freedom groups as an assault on free expression and private communications. Advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy and TechnologyHuman Rights Watch, LGBTQ Tech, and more urged the Senate to reject the 2020 legislation. Experts said that the bill would harm private, encrypted communications, and the latest version does not address those concerns.

Senator Wyden has introduced the Invest In Child Safety Act to require $5 billion in funding for prevention and support for victims of CSAM, to modernize the systems at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and to more effectively investigate and prosecute  the spread of heinous CSAM materials online. 


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Keith Chu