Senator Lindsey Graham quote about the EARN IT Act passing the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous approval
July 8, 2020

The EARN IT Act Passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here Are the Next Steps.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is deeply grateful to the Senate Judiciary Committee which unanimously approved a stronger version of the EARN IT Act Thursday, July 2, in a full committee markup of the bill. 

Introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators in March 2020, the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act, S. 3398) is designed to increase Big Tech accountability for two hideous problems related to the sexual exploitation of children: 1) Widespread availability of child sexual abuse material (CSAM, also known as child pornography) online; and 2) Far too frequent enticement, grooming, sex trafficking, and sexual abuse of children on digital platforms.

EARN IT grew out of a July 2019 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, titled Protecting Innocence in a Digital World, which NCOSE helped organize.

As a result of reports of inaction and indifference from the tech industry—easily explained by the almost complete immunity enjoyed by interactive computer service providers as an unintended consequence of the Communications Decency Act Section 230 (CDA 230)—the Judiciary Committee leadership designed EARN IT, a bill that (in its original form) made immunity conditional on tech compliance with voluntary best business practices established by a new Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention. 

Over the last four months, as major players in the interactive tech community fought EARN IT tooth and nail, a growing group of Senators—six Democrats and seven Republicans cosponsor the bill—realized that Big Tech deserves a tougher response. 

With strong support from advocates fighting online sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and CSAM across the country, Senate Judiciary approved a new version of EARN IT which:

  • Removes CDA 230 immunity regarding CSAM, thereby opening the technology industry to liability for harm caused to survivors under Federal civil law and state criminal and civil law
  • Makes accountable interactive service providers for combating child sexual exploitation and CSAM, without the “safe harbor” provisions outlined in the original version of EARN IT Act
  • Moots Big Tech’s exaggerated negative response to the commission, as the commission is now “decoupled” from CDA 230
    • It still empowers the commission to develop voluntary best practices and provide guidance/guidelines to help families, schools, and decision makers

The new and improved version of EARN IT takes significant steps to ensure access to remedies and justice for survivors. 

The EARN IT Act ensures that online platforms will now be treated like everyone else when it comes to combating child sexual exploitation. Congress makes them responsible for risks and danger they allow. As a result, they are strongly incentivized to ensure their products are safe.

Laptop with an icon representing online child safety and a second icon representing user privacy and encryption underscores how the EARN IT Act can protect both
EARN IT Act Can Both Protect Kids and Respect User Privacy, Encryption

It was a grassroots groundswell that resulted in a stronger EARN IT Act. 

As Judiciary Committee staff wrote to us on July 2, “Team NCOSE—We are so appreciative of your help throughout this process. You all have been with us every step of the way and we look forward to continuing our partnership as the bill moves forward.”

This is the only significant bill to curb online child sexual exploitation with a chance of success in 2020. Let’s get it passed by the full Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives so it becomes law by the end of the year!

Learn more about the bill from our allies at Shared Hope International here.

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