U.S. lawmakers’ ‘EARN IT Act’ threatens end-to-end encryption

U.S. legislation – “EARN IT Act” – will be introduced in the coming weeks that could hurt technology companies’ ability to offer end-to-end encryption, Reuters reports, citing “two sources with knowledge of the matter.”

Proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the bill claims to fight the distribution of child sexual abuse material by making technology companies liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits. It does so by threatening a key immunity the companies have under federal law called Section 230 which currently shields certain online platforms from being treated as the publisher or speaker of information they publish, and largely protects them from liability involving content posted by users.


EARN IT Act: iPhone passcode lock screen
iPhone passcode lock screen
The bill threatens this key immunity unless companies comply with a set of “best practices,” which will be determined by a 15-member commission led by the Attorney General… The sources said the U.S. tech industry fears these “best practices” will be used to condemn end-to-end encryption – a technology for privacy and security that scrambles messages so that they can be deciphered only by the sender and intended recipient. Federal law enforcement agencies have complained that such encryption hinders their investigations.

Online platforms are exempted from letting law enforcement access their encrypted networks. The proposed legislation provides a workaround to bypass that, the sources said.

Titled “The Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019,” or the “EARN IT Act,” the bill is sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.

During a Senate Judiciary hearing on encryption in December, a bipartisan group of senators warned tech companies that they must design their products’ encryption to comply with court orders. Senator Graham issued a warning to Facebook and Apple: “This time next year, if we haven’t found a way that you can live with, we will impose our will on you.”

MacDailyNews Take: This is an encryption attack masquerading as a “child protection” bill designed to threaten Apple’s and other tech companies’ use of encryption and a liability exemption that protects the companies. As we’ve written before, when pressed, government spooks usually resort to using children as the vector to get what they want: the elimination of personal privacy and the ability to snoop on anyone’s iPhone.

In January 2018, we asked, “How soon until the government spooks play the Think of the Children™ card in their misguided quest to shred the Constitution?” Looks like we have our answer: About two years.

Think of The Children™. Whenever you hear that line of horseshit, look for ulterior motives. Fear mongers: Those who use of fear, scare tactics, and emotional appeals in attempts to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. — MacDailyNews, September 30, 2014

The criminals will always be able to use end-to-end encryption. Measures like this hurt only law-abiding citizens by making it possible to invade privacy, conduct mass surveillance, and God only know what else. The criminals will have their privacy while law-abiding citizens will have their privacy stripped away.

This is not about this phone. This is about the future. And so I do see it as a precedent that should not be done in this country or in any country. This is about civil liberties and is about people’s abilities to protect themselves. If we take encryption away… the only people that would be affected are the good people, not the bad people. Apple doesn’t own encryption. Encryption is readily available in every country in the world, as a matter of fact, the U.S. government sponsors and funds encryption in many cases. And so, if we limit it in some way, the people that we’ll hurt are the good people, not the bad people; they will find it anyway. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, February 2016

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759


        1. Yup, landslide!!!. It will be even bigger in 2020 thanks to libturds like you. Your comment is more proof that liberalism is a mental illness.

          Americans thank the libturds for your stupidity, whining, bitching and violence which has guaranteed Trumps re-election!

            1. CitizenX, you should have U, the letter N and the letter T after your first letter, because that is you, you effing shopkeeper loser.

          1. Proof of cult: parroting the same meaningless buzzwords over and over and over, as if it was destiny.

            The use of “landslide” and “libturd” by dd and the other paid trolls here are proof that some posters are not interested in having a civil society. And yes, I know that equal and opposite extremists exist too. On these forums, however, MDN has willingly allowed itself to be taken over by 8chan alt-right misanthropes.

            Sad, considering what great things we could all accomplish if we worked together. Independents like me just shake my head in disgust.

            1. We can NOT work together, the left has become so anti-American that it is impossible and pushing them far, far away is the only way this country will survive. Shame, but the left has nobody to blame but themselves.

  1. Canada’s Conservative government tried to use this tactic with their own man-in-the-middle encryption bill (for internet providers, not device makers) in 2012. After a valid criticism, the minister backing it famously said “He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers”.

    That sparked a huge backlash, including anger from a number of traditionally hardcore conservative supporters.

  2. Something is gonna have to give here eventually, gov’t control of all info is not the answer
    Is it time to revisit physical keys again ?
    A universal backdoor that can only be opened by hardware ?
    With the digital world being so everyday common for almost everything now, it might be an answer to separate the real bad guys from people who just want privacy.
    Yeah, the big problem is who controls the physical keys after the backdoor can be secured and trusted by all. And at least warrants would be needed to access

    just spitballin here

  3. Perhaps the far bigger problem with harmful content on the Internet is Section 230 itself, not encryption. Perhaps if the pols really had the public’s interest in mind (including children), they would let them hold Internet companies accountable for their cynical lazy approach of making money off harmful speech, rather than banging pots and pans over encryption to try and appear to the victims like they’re doing something, while continuing to take bribes hand over fist from the same companies to protect Section 230 in the back rooms.

    1. Fredolito, Section 230 was passed to shield digital media from liability for speech they do not control. If they did not have that immunity, they would either go out of business or they would have to establish control. In other words, they would have to ban encryption and assert a contractual right to eavesdrop on every communication passing through their wires so they could identify “objectionable” content and (1) censor it and (2) report it to the government.

      That would mean that nobody using a means of digital communication could have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning those communications, since someone might be listening in. The courts have consistently allowed warrantless searches under those circumstances, since it is not an unreasonable invasion of Fourth Amendment privacy for the government to read non-private material. In addition, confidential communications between attorney and client, priest and penitent, doctor and patient, spouses, trade secrets, and so forth are not privileged from compelled disclosure in a criminal or civil action if there is a third-party witness to the communication. Without an expectation of privacy, defamatory remarks in a personal email could be considered as publication and result in a libel suit.

      Without Section 230, no digital medium of communications could promise privacy without accepting unlimited and unmanageable liability. Without the promise of privacy, the users would suffer the consequences of a complete loss of privacy.

  4. The do nothing parts of the USA (with help from China, Russia and the EU) are working overtime to make sure the west coast joins the rust and southern parts of the USA in poverty and dumbness….

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.