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Graham, Blumenthal Reintroduce EARN IT Act

Legislation encourages Big Tech to take online child sexual exploitation seriously

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to encourage the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously.

The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) removes blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

“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,” said Ranking Member Graham. “The EARN IT Act removes Section 230 blanket liability protection from service providers in the area of child sexual abuse material on their sites. To all the victim groups and law enforcement entities urging Congress to do something about the scourge of child sexual abuse material and the exploitation of children on the internet: we hear you. The days of children being exploited on the internet and their families being unable to do anything about it are coming to an end.”

“The EARN IT Act imposes basic accountability on tech companies that are complicit in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” said Blumenthal. “The internet is infested with millions images of children who have been brutally assaulted and exploited, and who are haunted by a lifetime of pain after these photographs and videos are circulated online. This problem is simply too big to throw money at – tech companies must take responsibility for eliminating child sexual abuse material on their own platforms, or be held accountable.”

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. 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.

Background on the EARN IT Act:

  • In July 2020, the EARN IT Act (S. 3398) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.
  • In February 2022, the EARN IT Act (S.3538) passed out of 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.  Sadly, given this limited liability, many companies do not aggressively go after online child sexual exploitation.

The EARN IT Act is supported by more than 150 groups, survivors and stakeholders, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, International Justice Mission, and Major Cities Chiefs Association.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee).

Representatives Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Full text of the bill is available HERE.