PotW: Oppose the EARN IT Act

October 11, 2020

My pick of the week is … different. Most Engineers will be aware of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the EFF, and some of you may even support their efforts. Well, they really need our help this week. The House and Senate are pushing forward a bill called the “EARN IT” act, which will strongly undermine encryption and free speech online.

If this bill were to pass it would remove Section 230 protections away from websites that don’t follow a list of “best practices,” meaning those sites could be sued out of existence. According to the EFF, ” Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This federal law preempts any state laws to the contrary: “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.” The courts have repeatedly rejected attempts to limit the reach of Section 230 to “traditional” Internet service providers, instead treating many diverse entities as “interactive computer service providers.”

This means that sites like Twitter, Facebook, comment sections on blogs, or any user-created content posted to a site owned by any person on the street could become legally liable for content found on their site, even though they did not create it, post it, or may not even have been aware of it. This extends even further to messaging platforms that offer end-to-end encryption. This act will essentially allow law enforcement to have a backdoor into all encryption communications within the U.S. Just remember, this won’t stop criminals who roll their own encryption, operate outside of the U.S., or just do not follow the law. Because they’re criminals.

And to put the icing on this terrible cake, it is all being done in the name of “crimes against children.” As if these criminals are going to follow the law.

So, if you enjoy encryption, protecting messaging, security, and privacy, don’t allow those rights to be eroded by this terrible legislation! Go the EFF’s page for “EARN IT” and click the TAKE ACTION button now! Call your representatives and let them know you do not support this horrible act!

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