July 02, 2020

Graham, Blumenthal on Judiciary Committee’s Unanimous Approval of the EARN IT Act

Legislation Seeks to Encourage the Tech Industry to Take Online Child Sexual Exploitation Seriously

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act of 2020 (S. 3398) by a vote of 22-0. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) would encourage the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The legislation must now be considered by the full Senate.

“I want to thank Senator Blumenthal for all of his hard work and making this possible. Without his leadership and input, the bill would not have gone forward. I have never been more proud of the Committee, as a body, than I am right now. Everybody took this problem seriously and we came together. And, if Congress accepts the Committee’s recommendation, the children of America will be better off for it,” said Graham. “There are tens of millions of photos and videos circulating throughout the internet, showing the most heinous acts of sexual abuse and torture of children. The EARN IT Act removes Section 230 blanket liability protection from service providers in the area of child sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material on their sites.  I will urge the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders to take this legislation up as soon as possible. We have many differences in Congress on a variety of issues, and a level of dysfunction that I regret. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous vote to pass to EARN IT Act gives me hope. It is now time to take the bill to the floor.”

“I want to thank the victims and survivors and their relatives, their loved ones, who have come forward in our hearing and in many other occasions. They have given energy and life to this movement. There is no reason for these platforms to have blanket immunity, a shield against any accountability that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way,” Blumenthal said during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up. “We are now moving forward with a narrowly crafted and tailored approach. It is targeted to help the victims and survivors of this absolutely hideous and insidious torture, rape, exploitation, that haunts these survivors for decades, for their whole lifetimes after it initially appears. I want to enter into the record one statement from the mother of a survivor, Nicole, who tells us and I’m quoting, ‘Companies who do not do this, namely who do not remove and report and detect child sexual abuse material are complicit in the abuse and need to be held accountable just like an individual person would be.’ That’s the spirit of this measure and I think it is overdue.”

The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Doug Jones (D-Alabama), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

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.