Blackburn & Colleagues’ EARN IT Act Closer to Becoming Law

February 15, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and has wide bipartisan support in Congress. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), will encourage the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously and removes blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).


The EARN IT Act has the backing of more than 250 groups, survivors and stakeholders, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, International Justice Mission, and Major Cities Chiefs Association.


“Online platforms have made it easier for pedophiles to groom and exploit children,” said Senator Blackburn. “There is no excuse for the tech industry not to secure the platforms that enable abusers. The EARN IT Act will push Big Tech to take the necessary steps to make it safer for kids to get online.”


 “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 Senator 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 is very simply about whether tech companies should be held responsible for their complicity in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children when they refuse to report or remove images of these crimes hosted on their platforms,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The modern internet is infested with stomach-churning 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. Tech companies have long had ready access to low-cost, or even free tools to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse material but have failed to act. Millions of these horrifying images go unidentified and unreported by the tech platforms that host them because there are so few consequences when these companies look the other way. That ends with the EARN IT Act.”


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.


Background on the EARN IT Act:


  • 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 legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).


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


Click here for additional quotes from Members of Congress supporting this legislation.