The EARN IT Act is Back. Again.

May 12, 2023

Bad policy alert! Legislators are once again pushing a law that would be horrible for SWers and the American public at large. Classic. The EARN IT Act has made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee for a third time since 2020 and could soon move to the Senate floor.

As a refresher, the EARN IT Act is proposed legislation that would remove liability protections for tech companies if they knowingly allow users to share CSAM (child s*xual ab*use material). It’s a typical situation of lawmakers using something objectively horrible like CSAM as a way to get people on board for a law that would violate people’s privacy. If the EARN IT Act is passed, the government would have access to information that currently remains private, including all encrypted messages, no matter the context or subject matter. Authorities could use this broad access to penalize vulnerable people like, let’s say, SWers, who don’t have anything to do with CSAM.

If you’re subscribed to this newsletter, we know you care about legislation that would harm SWers, but that’s not the only reason to care. Yes, the EARN IT Act would be extremely damaging to the SW community, but it would also be a violation of every American’s privacy. This law would create a future where lawyers, journalists, security professionals, advocates, and you are unable to send messages to anyone without a tech company, and by extension the government, being able to see and surveil everything you say.

So, what can we do? Let your Senators know that you do not support this bill. Call, text, email, and tweet at them. Send a carrier pigeon. If you don’t take action now, you might have to go back to writing handwritten letters if you want un-surveilled communication.

Wanna learn more about the EARN IT Act? We recommend checking out this episode of Old Pro News. Host Lakeesha Harris had a discussion with Daly Barnett, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and they really broke down the issue. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re interested.