#sextrafficking | Kinda sorta weakened version of EARN IT Act creeps closer – Naked Security | #tinder | #pof | #match


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There are gut-churning tales of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Last week, when a bill designed to strip legal protection from online abusers sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, UC/Berkeley Professor Hany Farid passed on this example from investigators at the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section: a man had “expressed excitement for his soon-to-arrive ‘new material,’ sharing an in-utero picture of his unborn child with an online network of abusers.”

Now that the EARN-IT Act has crept closer to a full Senate hearing, we’re that much closer to finding out whether the bill can really help stem the flood of online CSAM, whether it’s a barely veiled attack on online privacy and end-to-end encryption, or all of the above.

During Thursday’s hearing on the bill, which they’d amended the day before, the proposed law’s co-sponsors stressed that it’s not a wooden stake to stick in encryption’s heart. Senator Richard Blumenthal claimed that the bill “is not about encryption and it never will be.” The other co-sponsor, Senator Lindsey Graham, said that his goal “is not to outlaw encryption”. Well, at least not at this point, maybe: he called that “a debate for another day.”

The critics of the proposed law aren’t swallowing it.

The day before the hearing, the co-sponsors amended the act to make it appear, at least, to be more of a nudge than a cudgel. As explained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)— – a staunch critic of the bill – the new version now gives state legislatures the power to regulate the internet in the quest to battle CSAM, as opposed to a 19-person federal commission.

Nonetheless, it still threatens encryption, its critics say, albeit less blatantly.

In its first iteration, the EARN-IT Act proposed a commission to come up with best practices to battle CSAM. That commission would have been controlled by Attorney General William Barr. Given how often Barr has said that he thinks that encrypted services should be compelled to create backdoors for police, it was easy to see the legislation as an embodiment of a threat from Graham and other senators to regulate encryption in lieu of tech companies willingly creating those backdoors.