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Is the EARN-IT Act a backdoor attempt to get encryption backdoors?

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New bipartisan US legislation to fight online child exploitation incentivizes companies to drop end-to-end encryption, critics say.

Last week a pair of US senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced a flashpoint piece of legislation called The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT). The law, ostensibly designed to dampen the rampant child exploitation activities online, has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, free speech advocates, and cybersecurity professionals during draft discussions. Most observers said it is a sneak attack on end-to-end encryption. The release of the formal version of the bill only solidified this fear.

The 65-page piece of legislation promises to eliminate so-called Section 230 legal liability protection tech and internet companies that don’t meet recommendations about how to eradicate child exploitation material. Those recommendations would be made by a 19-member National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention. Companies can “earn” their liability exemptions granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, essential protection that enabled the growth of online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, if they meet the commission’s recommendations on how to combat child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]