senator Lindsay Graham has sponsored the EARN IT act that is currently in a senate committee. this act is a disgusting violation of privacy. and thanks to the saints over at the EFF, you get to see how the government wants to start poking holes in everything in the name of child safety.
we’ll take most of our info from the official text from congress.gov. there was a version of this bill in 2020, but it was dropped due to severe opposition. the meat of this post will also be from the EFF post as they know exactly what’s going down.
our cool little bill allows every state and territory to make their own internet regulations by getting rid of important legal protections like section 230 that stop such a free for all. they can pass whatever they want as long as they somehow magic a connection to stopping online child abuse.
“hey lucas isn’t the point of the bill to stop online child abuse in that case? it sounds like a pretty smart bill to pass.”
alas, that’s not our case. that’s what it should be about but in reality seems more about wild government overwatch. the goal is to get states to pass laws that punish companies that deploy end-to-end encryption or offer encrypted services. this includes things like whatsapp, signal, and imessage. yknow, the biggest sms app used on iphones, one of the largest phone brands. i hope you aren’t doing anything naughty iphone users.
it also wishes to go against web hosts like aws. yup, amazon web services, one of the biggest hosts of half the internet. including my website. we know they want to spread the use of tools to scan against law enforcement databases because even the people who sponsored the bill have said so. in a comically boring “myths and facts” document, (which we’ll be coming back to) it names government approved software that states could mandate. the one they point out is PhotoDNA, a microsoft program with an api reporting directly to the police.
our 14 point, times new roman document also tries kicking amazon down for not scanning enough of their content. (hey, quick offshoot. if you want to do something blindly evil, hide it behind boring legalese, literally exactly what they’re doing. nobody will actually read it, much less the people.) as amazon hosts aws, it implies the bill’s aim is to make sure anything online gets scanned eventually.
the bill also creates a 19-person federal commission, mainly in the control of law enforcement agencies, will lay out “voluntary best practices” for attacking the problem of CSAM. no matter whether states take the lead from the commission or the bill’s sponsors, we know where the road will end. every ISP will be compelled to scan every bit of user content uploaded and downloaded with the government approved software like photodna. if bill supporters can get large platforms like cloudflare and aws to comply, smaller websites won’t need to be compelled to scan. big government will already have access to the data through the platform.
and platforms that use encryption? there’s no safety for you. even a provision trying to protect you won’t get the job done. you can be dragged into court because a user “totally committed a crime trust me bro” and the fact that encryption is used will be evidence against you. that’s inane.
supporting senators say they need more tools to fight CSAM, but here’s the kicker. the proposed act takes aim at everything else on the internet. having, viewing, or distributing CSAM is already a federal crime. section 230 doesn’t give hosts a way to go around this, they have to report it.
i’m going to let the EFF say the rest.
Senate to U.S. Public: Can We Please Have a Surveillance State Now?
In their “Myths and Facts” sheet, the bill’s supporters have said the quiet part out loud. Some of the document’s falsehoods are breathtaking, such as the statement that internet businesses are provided “blanket and unqualified immunity for sexual crimes against children.” It (falsely) reassures small business owners who dare to have websites that the government-ordered scanning they will be subject to will come “without hindering their operations or creating significant costs.” And it says that using automated tools that submit images and videos to law enforcement databases is “not at odds with preserving online privacy.”
The Senators supporting the bill have said that their mass surveillance plans are somehow magically compatible with end-to-end encryption. That’s completely false, no matter whether it’s called “client side scanning” or another misleading new phrase.
The EARN IT Act doesn’t target Big Tech. It targets every individual internet user, treating us all as potential criminals who deserve to have every single message, photograph, and document scanned and checked against a government database. Since direct government surveillance would be blatantly unconstitutional and provoke public outrage, EARN IT uses tech companies—from the largest ones to the very smallest ones—as its tools.
The strategy is to get private companies to do the dirty work of mass surveillance. This is the same tactic that the U.S. government used last year, when law enforcement agencies tried to convince Apple to subvert its own encryption and scan users’ photos for them. (That plan has stalled out after overwhelming opposition.) It’s the same strategy that U.K. law enforcement is using to convince the British public to give up its privacy, having spent public money on a laughable publicity campaign that demonizes companies that use encryption.
here’s the shame list: senators who are co-sponsors of this trash.
- Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT]
- Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]
- Sen. Grassley, Chuck [R-IA]
- Sen. Feinstein, Dianne [D-CA]
- Sen. Cornyn, John [R-TX]
- Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]
- Sen. Hawley, Josh [R-MO]
- Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]
- Sen. Kennedy, John [R-LA]
- Sen. Casey, Robert P., Jr. [D-PA]
- Sen. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN]
- Sen. Cortez Masto, Catherine [D-NV]
- Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]
- Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH]
- Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA]
- Sen. Warner, Mark R. [D-VA]
- Sen. Hyde-Smith, Cindy [R-MS]
- Sen. Murkowski, Lisa [R-AK]
- Sen. Portman, Rob [R-OH]
i suppose there’s only one true way to end this post. tell your representative to kill this bill before it gets anywhere close to the desk of the President. for us in the coopersville area, here’s the hit list.