Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to reintroduce bipartisan legislation encouraging the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT Act) removes blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
“Online service providers have long acknowledged their responsibility to enforce user policies and moderate certain content, but many have not done enough to combat child predators who use these platforms to exploit and victimize children. This bill would ensure that online service providers that fail to crack down on such content are not able to escape consequence by hiding behind Section 230 immunity. This commonsense bill received unanimous bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee last Congress, and it’s time we get it on the books to help prevent future child exploitation online,” Grassley said.
Highlights of the EARN IT Act:
- Creates a strong incentive for the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove blanket immunity from Federal civil, State criminal and State civil child sexual abuse material laws entirely. Service providers will now be treated like everyone else when it comes to combating child sexual exploitation and eradicating CSAM, creating accountability.
- Establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention that will be responsible for developing voluntary best practices. The Commission consists of the heads of DOJ, DHS and FTC, along with 16 other members appointed equally by Congressional leadership, including representatives from: law enforcement, survivors and victims’ services organizations, constitutional law experts, technical experts and industry.
- Recourse for survivors and tools for enforcement. The bill bolsters enforcement of child sexual abuse material statutes and allows survivors civil recourse.
In July 2020, the EARN IT Act (S. 3398) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives “interactive computer services” significant immunity from civil liability, as well as state criminal liability for third party content on their platforms. Given this limited liability, many companies do not aggressively go after online child sexual exploitation.
The EARN IT Act is supported by more than 240 groups, survivors and stakeholders, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, International Justice Mission and Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Along with Graham, Blumenthal and Grassley, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.). Representatives Ann Wagner (R-Miss.) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.