Lindsey Graham Is Quietly Preparing a Mess of a Bill Trying to Destroy End-to-End Encryption - 2020-02-01
Top Trump ally and consistent encryption scaremonger Senator Lindsey Graham is working on a bill that could coerce tech companies to stop providing end-to-end encryption by threatening them with massive legal liability, The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019 (or EARN IT Act).
The draft version of the EARN IT Act, which has not yet been formally introduced but is reportedly being circulated by Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, bills itself as a way to fight the distribution of child sex abuse material (CSAM) on major platforms. But it does so by threatening Section 230, a core building block of the modern internet that shields tech platforms from liability for user-generated content (for example, it's why Gizmodo is insulated from libel lawsuits stemming from what happens in the comments section). The EARN IT Act would threaten tech companies like Facebook, Google, and WhatApp's Section 230 immunity regarding CSAM unless they comply with a set of so-called "best practices" determined by a 15-member commission. Those companies deemed not in compliance would have the evidentiary standard used to determine whether they enable CSAM lowered from "knowingly" to "recklessly," with the draft bill also amending Section 230 to no longer prohibit state prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges against internet companies currently protected from state laws under the statute.
This is a disconcerting proposal for numerous reasons. As Riana Pfefferkorn of Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society explained in a lengthy blog post, it appears to be a bait-and-switch for Congress and the Department of Justice to wage their war on end-to-end encryption by requiring those "best practices" to "condemn end-to-end encryption." Unlike telecommunications firms like phone companies, internet platforms are exempted under federal law from having to provide the ability for law enforcement to wiretap their networks. The EARN IT Act provides a convenient workaround to bypass that.