The EARN IT Act was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat of Connecticut), along with Sen. Josh Hawley (Republican of Missouri) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Democrat of California) on March 5.

The premise of the bill is that technology companies have to earn Section 230 protections rather than being granted immunity by default, as the Communications Decency Act has provided for over two decades.

The bill’s backers have not said definitively that they will demand a backdoor for law enforcement (and whoever else can find it) as part of the EARN IT Act. (In fact, Blumenthal denies it.) But nor have they written the bill to say they won’t. And Graham, one of the bill’s cosponsors, left little doubt on where he stands:

“Facebook is talking about end-to-end encryption which means they go blind,” Sen Graham said, later adding, “We’re not going to go blind and let this abuse go forward in the name of any other freedom.”

Notably, Match Group — the company behind Tinder, OKCupid, and many of the most popular dating apps in the United States — has come out in support of the bill. (That’s easy for Match: none of the apps it makes offer encrypted communications.) The platforms are starting to speak up against it, though — see this thread from WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart.

In the meantime, Graham raises the prospect that the federal government will get what it has long wanted — greatly expanded power to surveil our communications — by burying it in a complex piece of legislation that is nominally about reducing the spread of child abuse imagery. It’s a cynical move, and if the similar tactics employed in the FOSTA-SESTA debate were any indication, it might well be an effective one.


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