The bill doesn’t lay out specific rules. But the committee — which would be chaired by the Attorney General — is likely to limit how companies encrypt users’ data. Large web companies have moved toward end-to-end encryption (which keeps data encrypted for anyone outside a conversation, including the companies themselves) in recent years. Facebook has added end-to-end encryption to apps like Messenger and Whatsapp, for example, and it’s reportedly pushing it for other services as well. U.S. Attorney General William Barr has condemned the move, saying it would prevent law enforcement from finding criminals, but Facebook isn’t required to comply. Under the EARN IT Act, though, a committee could require Facebook and other companies to add a backdoor for law enforcement.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is working on a bill that would reduce legal protections for apps and websites, potentially jeopardizing online encryption. The Verge reports: The draft bill would form a “National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention” to establish rules for finding and removing child exploitation content. If companies don’t follow these rules, they could lose some protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which largely shields companies from liability over users’ posts. Reports from Bloomberg and The Information say that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is behind the bill, currently dubbed the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT) Act. It would amend Section 230 to make companies liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits over child abuse and exploitation-related material, unless they follow the committee’s best practices. They wouldn’t lose Section 230 protections for other content like defamation and threats.