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The EARN IT Act, an attack on encrypted communications, to be reintroduced next week

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Those behind the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act must be hoping that third time’s a charm for this previously widely-opposed piece of legislation, that is set to be reintroduced next week.

The previous two attempts to make EARN IT into law failed amid outcry from opponents who said that while designed to protect children, the bill would fail to do that – but would still damage online privacy.

Now here’s the third, bipartisan attempt sponsored by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal to bring changes to the Communication Decency Act (CDA) Section 230.

Critics say that the amendment as envisaged by EARN IT would harm internet users by removing legal protections Section 230 gives tech companies for third party content.

The consequence would be those companies protecting themselves by engaging in (even more) censorship, and “working” with the government to this end – even more than we are aware they already do.

At the core of EARN IT is to target platforms for violations related to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) rules that exist at the federal and state level.

But allegedly, these platforms are reluctant to “moderate” i.e., censor content in a heavy-handed manner, and for that reason oppose the legislation.

The bill also previously came under fire from digital rights groups for defining its goals too broadly and therefore allowing for measures that could (further) erode online privacy in the US.

Although the exact wording of the bill that’s about to be revived is not known at this time, some of the fiercest critics of its previous incarnations are not expecting good news.

One of the arguments against the bill, in terms of how harmful it could be to privacy, is that it is encryption-unfriendly – some of the provisions in previous attempts to pass it included the right to make tech companies incorporate encryption backdoors for law enforcement to use.

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