Senators have proposed a law requiring websites to actively fight child exploitation or risk losing legal protections. The bill, Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT) Act, was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today. It would establish a new government commission composed of administration officials and outside experts, who would set "best practices" for removing child sexual exploitation and abuse material online.
The principles are theoretically voluntary, but if companies don't comply, they can be held legally responsible for that content — losing some protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They can maintain immunity if they establish that they have "other reasonable practices" in place.
A draft of the EARN IT Act circulated in late January, and it was met with alarm by privacy advocates and some tech companies. The draft bill gave the committee wide latitude to make rules governing online platforms, and it gave the Justice Department substantial influence over the committee. It was widely seen as an attack on encryption since the "best practices" could include a backdoor giving law enforcement access to users' private conversations. Attorney General William Barr has previously pushed Apple to unlock phones for criminal investigations and urged Facebook to delay implementing end-to-end encryption on its messaging apps.