Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal are quietly circulating a serious threat to your free speech and security online. Their proposal would give the Attorney General the power to unilaterally write new rules for how online platforms and services must operate in order to rely on Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. The AG could use this power to force tech companies to undermine our secure and private communications.
We must stop this dangerous proposal before it sees the light of day. Please tell your members of Congress to reject the so-called EARN IT Act.
The Graham-Blumenthal bill would establish a “National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention” tasked with recommending “best practices for providers of interactive computer services regarding the prevention of online child exploitation conduct.” But the Attorney General would have the power to override the Commission’s recommendations unilaterally. Internet platforms or services that failed to meet the AG’s demands could be on the hook for millions of dollars in liability.
It’s easy to predict how Attorney General William Barr would use that power: to break encryption. He’s said over and over that he thinks the “best practice” is to weaken secure messaging systems to give law enforcement access to our private conversations. The Graham-Blumenthal bill would finally give Barr the power to demand that tech companies obey him or face overwhelming liability from lawsuits based on their users’ activities. Such a demand would put encryption providers like WhatsApp and Signal in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a single lawsuit or knowingly undermine their own users’ security, making all of us more vulnerable to criminals. The law should not pit core values—Internet users’ security and expression—against one another.
The Graham-Blumenthal bill is anti-speech, anti-security, and anti-innovation. Congress must reject it.