The bill uses crimes against children as an excuse to force Internet platforms to follow a set of “best practices” set out by a government commission. If owners of the platforms don’t follow the new rules, they’ll lose legal protections for free speech.
It’s easy to predict how Attorney General William Barr, who will dominate the commission, will use that power: to break encryption. He’s said over and over again that the “best practice” is to force encrypted messaging systems to give law enforcement access to our private conversations. The Graham-Blumenthal bill would finally give Barr the power to demand that tech companies obey him or face serious repercussions, including both civil and criminal liability. That will put encryption providers in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a single lawsuit, or undermine their users’ security, making all of us more vulnerable to online criminals.
The EARN IT Act is also an unconstitutional constraint on free expression. The government must not be allowed to create new rules mandating how websites manage user-generated content. We wouldn’t let Congress demand that newspapers cover certain stories, or slant the news. Similarly, lawmakers shouldn’t make rules that require websites to screen and censor user speech.
The Graham-Blumenthal bill cynically uses crimes against children as an excuse to hand control of online privacy over to federal law enforcement agencies. Congress should put a stop to it.