The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the 30-year-old advocacy group that has been a pioneer in defending digital civil liberties, sent a letter this week to the United States Senate, opposing the controversial EARN IT Act -- which the EFF says will
result in online censorship that will disproportionately impact marginalized communities, will jeopardize access to encrypted services, and will place at risk the prosecutions of the very abusers the law is meant to catch.
Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020, or EARN IT, is designed to roll back protections for online platforms under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Section 230 is widely considered the First
Amendment of the Internet. As AVN reported last month, the law is not only the backbone of open online communications, but for adult content online as well.
Efforts to roll back Section 230 protection will have a significant
adverse impact on the adult entertainment industry if passed, First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters told AVN in August. Any change to Section 230 could result in restrictive content moderation rules or elimination of the platforms themselves.
Platforms would be required to earn the protections currently afforded by Section 230 by following a set of vaguely defined best practices to prevent illegal activities, specifically sex trafficking and Child Sex Abuse Material
(CSAM), if EARN IT passes.
Under EARN IT, states will be free to impose any liability standard they please on platforms, including holding platforms liable for CSAM they did not actually know was present on their services, EFF
warned in its letter to the Senate. Nothing in the bill would prevent a state from passing a law in the future holding a provider criminally responsible under a 'reckless' or 'negligence' standard.
In other words, under EARN IT,
state governments could punish online platforms for almost anything that could be broadly interpreted as CSAM or Sex trafficking, even bringing criminal charges against site operators. The dangers for the adult industry are clear if states are allowed to
define a wide range of sexual content as promoting sex trafficking.
But sex worker advocacy groups have also warned that the EARN IT law could lead to increased surveillance of workers in the sex industry. EFF also addresses the
surveillance threat in its letter to the Senate.
End-to-end encryption ensures the privacy and security of sensitive communications such that only the sender and receiver can view them, the group wrote. But the EARN IT Act
threatens to undermine and disincentivize providers from providing strong encryption.
The EFF compares EARN IT to a previous sex trafficking law, FOSTA/SESTA, which is the only law so far passed that actually curtails Section 230
protections, in cases when sites are deemed to promote online sex trafficking. But that law had the opposite effect from its stated intention.
Instead, it has forced sex workers, whether voluntarily engaging in sex work or forced
into sex trafficking against their wills, offline and into harm's way, EFF wrote. It has also chilled their online expression generally, including the sharing of health and safety information, and speech wholly unrelated to sex work.
In the letter, EFF urges the Senate not to fast track the EARN IT bill -- and to vote it down if or when it finally comes before the entire Senate. The bill passed through the Judiciary Commitee in July.
Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal are quietly circulating a serious threat to your free speech and security online. Their proposal would give the Attorney General the power to unilaterally write new rules for how online platforms and
services must operate in order to rely on Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. The AG could use this power to force tech companies to undermine our secure and private communications.
We must stop this
dangerous proposal before it sees the light of day. Please tell your members of Congress to reject the so-called EARN IT Act.
The Graham-Blumenthal bill would establish a National Commission on Online Child
Exploitation Prevention tasked with recommending best practices for providers of interactive computer services regarding the prevention of online child exploitation conduct. But the Attorney General would have the power to override the Commission's
recommendations unilaterally. Internet platforms or services that failed to meet the AG's demands could be on the hook for millions of dollars in liability.
It's easy to predict how Attorney General William Barr would use that
power: to break encryption. He's said over and over that he thinks the best practice is to weaken secure messaging systems to give law enforcement access to our private conversations. The Graham-Blumenthal bill would finally give Barr the power to demand
that tech companies obey him or face overwhelming liability from lawsuits based on their users' activities. Such a demand would put encryption providers like WhatsApp and Signal in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a
single lawsuit or knowingly undermine their own users' security, making all of us more vulnerable to criminals. The law should not pit core values--Internet users' security and expression--against one another.
Graham-Blumenthal bill is anti-speech, anti-security, and anti-innovation. Congress must reject it.
Woody Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was acquired last week by the publisher Hachette in the US.
The move was quickly condemned by the author's daughter Dylan Farrow, who has alleged that Allen sexually abused her as a child, allegations that
Allen has denied. These allegations have twice been investigated by the authorities but have not led to arrest, charge or prosecution.
Allen's son Ronan Farrow, whose book Catch and Kill --also published by Hachette -- details his investigations
into institutional sexual abuse in the media and Hollywood, also blasted the decision and announced he would no longer work with Hachette.
The Hachette censorship was initiated by Hachette staff in the US who staged a walkout at its New York
offices over the memoir. The publisher then pulled the book, claming that the decision was a difficult one.
Woody Allen's memoir will still be published in France despite its US publisher dropping it, with his French publisher saying that the film
director is not Roman Polanski and that the American situation is not ours.
Offsite Comment: This is the behaviour of censors, not publishers
I do not want to read books that are good for me or that are written by people whose views I always agree with or admire. I am always afraid when a mob, however small and well read, exercises power without any accountability, process
or redress. That frightens me much more than the prospect of Woody Allen's autobiography hitting the bookstores.
Prager University (PragerU) is a right wing group that creates videos explaining a right wing perspective to political issues.
YouTube didn't much care for the content and shunted the videos up a 'restricted mode' back alley.
the censorship in court but have just lost their case. First Amendment rights in the US bans the state from censoring free speech but this protection does not extended to private companies. PragerU had tried to argue that Google has become so integral to
American life that it should be treated like a state institution.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed that YouTube, a Google subsidiary, is a private platform and thus not subject to the First Amendment. In making that
determination, the Court also rejected a plea from a conservative content maker that sued YouTube in hopes that the courts would force it to behave like a public utility.
Headed by conservative radio host Dennis Prager, PragerU alleged in its suit
against YouTube that the video hosting platform violated PragerU's right to free speech when it placed a portion of the nonprofit's clips on Restricted Mode, an optional setting that approximately 1.5 percent of YouTube users select so as not to see
content with mature themes.
Writing for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown said YouTube was a private forum despite its ubiquity and public accessibility, and hosting videos did not make it a state actor for purposes of the First