The EARN IT Act is an unconstitutional attempt to undermine encryption services that protect our free speech and security online. It's bad. Really bad. The bill’s authors — Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — say that the EARN IT Act will help fight child exploitation online, but in reality, this bill gives the Attorney General sweeping new powers to control the way tech companies collect and store data, verify user identities, and censor content. It's bad. Really bad.

Later this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on whether or not the EARN IT Act will move forward in the legislative process. So we're asking EVERYONE on the Internet to call these key lawmakers today and urge them to reject the EARN IT Act before it's too late. To join this day of action, please:

  1. Visit

  2. Enter your phone number (it will not be saved or stored or shared with anyone)

  3. When you are connected to a Senator’s office, encourage that Senator to reject the EARN IT Act

  4. Press the * key on your phone to move on to the next lawmaker’s office

If you want to know more about this dangerous law, online privacy, or digital rights in general, just ask! We are:


Comments: 566 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

Deadguy2322109 karma

Fighting censorship, but showing up on a platform that just did a mass sweep of censorship that, according to a leaked memo, is only phase 1.

How do you reconcile that?

fightforthefuture60 karma

Great question.

The US government has traditionally taken a laissez faire approach to regulating the Internet. Most big tech companies like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are treated as platforms, NOT publishers of content under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This means that Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are not legally responsible for the content that you and I post on their platforms ... for the most part.

Without any federal regulations, these companies are allowed to moderate content, use algorithms to promote content, and censor content according to their own guidelines. And they don't always rely on human rights experts or constitutional scholars to craft their content moderation policies. Instead, these companies tend to push limits until the market pushes back. That's resulted in some pretty awful things happening, and people have begun rightly pointing out the ways in which social media companies are responsible for polarizing people, radicalizing people, and spreading fake or misleading news ... all in the pursuit of greater profits.

Well, the market is now pushing back. Advertisers are fleeing social media platforms. Calls for boycotts are growing. Congressional leadership is calling for investigations. So social media companies are scrambling to impose their own regulations. And some lawmakers -- such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) -- are attempting to use the current social media panic to implement very dangerous levels of government control on the Internet.

That's actually what the EARN IT Act is all about. This law will form a special committee that recommends "best practices" to the Attorney General that tech companies MUST follow ... or else they will lose their legal protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, opening them up to crippling lawsuits. What best practices, you ask? Well, those aren't actually specified in the EARN IT Act. They could include breaking encryption through digital backdoors, or de-anonymizing VPN traffic. And as we've seen from the PATRIOT Act, the government is likely to abuse this law to justify spying on journalists and protesters.

So how do I reconcile posting on reddit about fighting for greater freedom of speech online? Pretty easily, actually. reddit is a company that operates within the rules of the marketplace. Don't like how reddit performs content management? Well, let's work together to advocate for better rules with stronger transparency and accountability. Let's call for meaningful, common-sense regulations BEFORE content manipulation and fake news gets so out of control that it negatively impacts hundreds of millions of people. Let's push back against dangerous authoritarians who want to undermine public security and basic human rights instead of actually addressing the complex challenges technology has brought. And let's use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and reddit to have these conversations.

CouldOfBeenGreat9 karma

Link to the current text of the bill (this should have been included in your post, imo):

These are the types of statements many people may have problems with:

The EARN IT Act is an unconstitutional attempt to undermine encryption services that protect our free speech and security online. It's bad. Really bad.

A much more accurate statement:

What best practices, you ask? Well, those aren't actually specified in the EARN IT Act. They could include breaking encryption through digital backdoors, or de-anonymizing VPN traffic.

Not that the government wouldn't likely use the bill for exactly that, but your opening statement states it as though breaking encryption is the meat of the bill.

Don't get me wrong, I see the potential for abuse, but hyperbole is maybe a bad idea here.

fightforthefuture33 karma

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on record earlier this year, telling tech companies that they needed to break encryption "or we'll find a way to do it for you." Just a few months later, he authored the EARN IT Act, which pretty much everyone agrees is an attack on end-to-end encryption:

When somebody says, "I'm going to do a thing," and then that person does that very thing, it's not hyperbole to say, "This person is, indeed, doing the thing they said they were going to do."

E70M15 karma

The justification these senators gave for this bill is to fight online child exploitation. I believe we need to keep our current encryption standards, and that this bill puts those standards in danger. How do you envision that we as a country can do both?

fightforthefuture15 karma

Ron Wyden (D-OR) has worked with other Senators to create a bill that will dedicate $5 billion in mandatory funding for those in our government who are already working to combat child exploitation online. This bill also attempts to improve communication between different government agencies, and increase community investments to combat child exploitation at the source. That sounds reasonable and meaningful to me, though I'm always open to hearing more information from others on this issue.

As for keeping our current encryption standards, I think it's super important to recognize that breaking commercially-available encryption won't actually stop criminals from encrypting their messages. Think about it. Encryption is just math. So if we break encryption for Signal and Facebook Messenger, criminals can still write their own encryption programs. We might catch a few people still using these services for illegal activities, but any reasonably savvy criminal enterprise will be able to hire a coder to create a personalized encryption service. That means we'll all be more vulnerable to hacking, while criminals will still be protected by encryption. That doesn't make any sense.

phaelox15 karma

I'm not seeing any mention here of the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, which was introduced Tuesday, 23 June.

This new bill also comes hot on the heels of another proposal that critics say is secretly designed to kill strong consumer encryption, called the EARN IT bill, and the ambitious scope of LAEDA may be designed to make EARN IT look reasonable by comparison.

Source: Slate

What's going on here, is it a ploy to make EARN IT seem reasonable? Does it stand a chance if EARN IT fails to pass?

fightforthefuture8 karma

Yeah, the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act is absolutely atrocious. I agree with Slate 100%. This is a political ploy. I certainly hope that killing the EARN IT Act will kill this awful, awful legislation as well.

ItsTribeTimeNow12 karma

How likely is the EARN IT Act to pass? How much support does it currently have in congress?

Also any update on Woodhull/EFF's FOSTA case?

fightforthefuture17 karma

To be honest, I am not sure how likely it is that the EARN IT Act will pass. I know that right now it has proponents on both sides of the aisle, and that's pretty serious given our current, polarized political climate. Many politicians want to look "tough on crime," especially during an election year. So they just might vote for the EARN IT Act unless their constituents tell them not to.

I encourage you to call Congress today and let the Senate Judiciary Committee know that you're a voter and you're opposed to this dangerous law. Tell your Senators and Representative, too.

ItsTribeTimeNow10 karma

I've definitely emailed. I've never called a congressperson's office before. Do you have any tips? Talking points?

On a further note, is there any way us tech and freedom advocates can start going on offense? It's exhausting always sounding the alarm for the next crazy thing these congress critters come up with. Software developers should be celebrated, not constantly demonized.

fightforthefuture8 karma

Honestly? Calling Congress can be pretty fun. Our call tool makes it really easy. You won't actually get to speak to a Senator, but you will get to speak with someone in the Senator's office. The important thing is to make clear WHY you are calling. Let them know that you're a voter. Let them know that you understand that the Senator is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Let them know that you think the EARN IT Act is a terrible bill.

If that staffer gets hundreds of calls against the EARN IT Act, that staffer is going to report to the Senator, "Hey, I think people are really upset about this EARN IT Act bill." That makes a difference in the way our lawmakers think. They don't want to support this bill if voters are opposed to it.

So my advice is just dive in and give it a try.

As for going on the offensive, I think that it's important for us to have tech-savvy lawmakers who are truly invested in creating a better digital world. We need folks proposing reasonable legislation instead of making reactionary power-grabs like the EARN IT Act. Support candidates who speak intelligently about these issues. Run for local office yourself. Go door-to-door in your city to champion issues that you think will help your community. If that seems daunting to you, just imagine how daunting it will be to keep fighting awful bills that threaten the Internet for the rest of your life.

anotherhumantoo3 karma

Many politicians want to look "tough on crime," especially during an election year.

Do you know how we can adequately try and encourage our elected officials that we don't want them to be "tough on crime" the way they're being it as they increase mandatory minimums, increase police spending, etc?

fightforthefuture3 karma

Yeah. Call them. Tell them. Seriously. You can call them every day and you'll get to know their staffers. We won't be able to change the opinions of each individual lawmaker. But we will let them know that the public is paying attention ... that gives them political cover to say "no" to lobbyists and other, powerful politicians on issues like the EARN IT Act.

isaac655365 karma

Ain't from US but why should I believe tech companies more than the government?

For me it's the case of two sides of same coin.

fightforthefuture4 karma

I won't encourage you to believe either.

I think that if we refuse to regulate tech companies, then we are giving them license to govern our behavior. Nothing I've seen from Facebook, Twitter, reddit, Google, or any other tech company makes me feel comfortable with these companies in control of my personal data, my speech, or my basic human rights.

I also think that giving government agencies complete control over tech companies is a recipe for disaster. US law enforcement and intelligence agencies already abuse their access into our data to spy on journalists, political protesters, and pretty much everyone in America.

Well-written laws protect the public from other citizens AS WELL AS government overreach and abuse. So I advocate for well-written laws. I fight against laws like the EARN IT Act which give the government broad, new powers that can easily be abused to hurt us all. And I fight against efforts to tear down important regulations that keep us safe from corporate exploitation.

ohlongjohnso5 karma

Right now is encryption actually safe? There have been reports of an Israeli firm creating a machine that will break into iPhones.

How does the government expect people to survive without encryption, Banks, medical?

What would you propose to fight child exploitation? Are there other solutions?

fightforthefuture3 karma

I take a number of precautions to make sure that my Internet activities are more safe, but I'm not sure that anything I do is "actually safe."

Edward Snowden exposed a great deal of information about the government's capabilities to spy on our communications, and we've continued to learn more since then. Unfortunately, there's a lot of information that the government won't disclose ... even to Congressional lawmakers.

I genuinely think that the lawmakers who are supporting the EARN IT Act are completely ignoring the negative effects of breaking encryption. They literally wave away any serious concerns by security experts. The fact that you, u/ohlongjohnso, are asking deeper questions about this issue than the lawmakers who crafted this bill, should tell you all you need to know.

I'm not an expert on child exploitation, but there are plenty of other ways to combat online abuse without destroying encryption and giving the government access into every social media platform. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a bill aimed at increasing funding for existing efforts while also trying to address the source of the issue at the community level. I'm always open to hearing other ideas, too.

raptorcaboose4 karma

Do you think government agencies will have to follow the same laws if passed? I work for a company the does drive encryption and a vast majority of our companies are government agencies like the dod, department of interior, noaa, navy etc... they already have trouble actually following basic security guidelines so I think it will only make our infrastructure more insecure then it already is

fightforthefuture2 karma

I agree with you that destroying encryption will threaten a lot more than "just" my personal conversations with friends and coworkers on Signal. It's going to weaken commercially-available software that is used in countless devices, making our entire infrastructure vulnerable to attacks.

We know this because, well, it has literally happened time and time again. Our intelligence agencies currently exploit digital backdoors for surveillance purposes and we've seen these same digital backdoors used to carry out malware schemes and state-sponsored attacks.

So why does our government want to make it easier for people to hack our infrastructure?

miaumee3 karma

What is your outlook on the future of humanity?

fightforthefuture7 karma

Individuals are generally self-interested, and incredibly motivated to survive.

Right now, it's easy to be pretty pessimistic about the future of humanity because we can see a lot of individuals in positions of power who are refusing to address serious threats to humanity -- like income inequality, environmental destruction, and a resurgence in authoritarianism across the globe. I think that these powerful individuals either believe:

a) These issues don't actually threaten them personally, or b) Exploiting these threats for their own short-term financial gain gives them a greater opportunity to survive these threats in the long-term.

Thankfully, we all have greater access to information than ever before. So it's easier for us all to see what's happening in real-time, and to share our thoughts and ideas about how we can improve the situation. As more and more people become aware of the IRL impact of these dangerous situations, they will understand that addressing these existential threats to humanity is necessary for their personal survival.

Perhaps things need to get even worse for enough people to feel personally threatened that we can make lasting, positive changes to the way our society is structured. Or perhaps we've already reached a tipping point. If I had to bet money, I'd bet money on the former. So I guess I'm a bit pessimistic at the moment.

But ultimately, I'm very optimistic. I've traveled around the world and met many different people. I think we all share many of the same goals, wants, and dreams. I think we're all together in this thing called life, and I think that eventually, we'll figure that out.

techledes3 karma

Which social media sites have done a good job of setting rules that balance the right to free speech with the need to prevent bad actors from use those platforms for misinformation/disinformation? What have they done specifically that we should pay attention to?

fightforthefuture5 karma

Honestly, I'm not sure that I'm aware of any company that has done a good job of balancing speech and content moderation.

We all agree that there are limits to free speech, right? Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater is not protected speech, because it can cause a panic that results in people getting hurt or dying. Likewise, you can't make direct threats to people, either.

Well, Facebook is a whole lot bigger than a crowded theater. Facebook claims 2.6 billion monthly users. BILLION! With a "b!" What counts as yelling "Fire!" on Facebook? How are the implications of yelling "Fire!" on Facebook different than yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater? How does Facebook's algorithm determine which users see a post yelling "Fire" and which users see a post of an adorable corgi puppy? Why does Facebook allow people to promote posts yelling "Fire!" and target those posts to other people whose data profile suggests that they are likely to be afraid of fires?

These are serious questions. I've seen a lot of people asking these questions, but I haven't heard a lot of great answers. I've seen companies like Facebook, reddit, and Twitter employ real-life moderators while also relying on automation to take down potentially offensive posts. But real-life moderators often disagree on what specific content actually breaks terms of service, resulting in inconsistent application of community rules. And automated moderators make tons of mistakes, failing to understand nuance. This results in people getting censored unfairly, and without any true opportunity to dispute their censorship.

Some people will advocate for complete freedom, ignoring the potential dangers of websites that intentionally spread misinformation, host abusive content, or provide a public platform for hateful ideologies. Others -- like the authors of the EARN IT Act -- will advocate for total government access into and control over everything we say and do online.

Social media companies have created enormous communities that operate very differently than anything history has ever seen before. We are all dealing with very unexplored territory. I personally believe that it's necessary for social media companies to invest heavily in consistent, transparent content moderation efforts. I believe they must put an end to algorithmic promotion of content, and drastically change how they microtarget Internet users. People need to be in charge of their own personal data, and they need to have control over how their data is being used ... because that data is used to manipulate them and spam them and scam them.

I think that we need big, structural changes to the way tech companies operate and exploit people's attention in order to begin properly addressing censorship and content moderation.

Have you seen any online communities that do a good job of balancing these ideals?

DaBlueCaboose5 karma

Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater is not protected speech, because it can cause a panic that results in people getting hurt or dying.

Actually, that's not true. The decision that used that (in)famous quote was overturned because it was a nightmare for free speech, as it upheld the conviction of a man who publicly opposed the draft.

The decision was overturned in 1969 and the Court held "...the government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is 'directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.'" Yelling "fire" in a theater is not inherently lawless and would not incite lawless action.

Sorry, personal pet peeve.

fightforthefuture8 karma

Thanks for pointing this out. I'll need a new reference point for this argument.

Powderstones2 karma


fightforthefuture7 karma

Better than 0%. Worse than 100%. I'll keep fighting until that changes, one way or the other.

Independent14112 karma

Would you look at it differently if a search warrant were required for any search that requires a service to provide a backdoor to their encryption?

What do you say to victims of murders, child exploitation, terrorism, and other violent or horrid crimes that there's information out there that could help bring suspects to Justice, and the police have enough probable cause to write a warrant on it but can't because they cannot break the encryption.

fightforthefuture4 karma

I think that it is imperative that we take into account the experiences of those victimized by crimes when we are creating new laws. I think we must also be very, very careful not to politicize the experience of these victims. And I think we must identify ways in which the new laws we want to create may result in more victims.

We don't have a lot of data on the efficacy of the government's existing surveillance and data collection programs, mostly because the government has blatantly and repeatedly lied about the existence and the scope of these programs since the very beginning. In fact, the government still refuses to provide the public with a meaningful understanding of what data is being collected and how it's being used.

We do know that the government's own internal oversight board looked into one aspect of the government's massive surveillance program: the call details record program, which cost millions of dollars over many years and collected data on hundreds of millions of Americans. The oversight board found that the program had "not proven useful in identifying unknown terrorists or terrorist plots." So when people like Lindsey Graham lie to us about the need to invade our privacy to stop terrorists from blowing up Hoover dam, I think it's important that we questions Lindsey Graham when he tells us that the Attorney General needs complete access to everything everyone says and does online in order to prevent child exploitation.

It's imperative that the government provides the public with access to their data so we can all understand what data is being collected, how it's being used, how it's being protected from abuse, and whether or not it's truly effective. As long as politicians, law enforcement agents, and intelligence officials continue to lie about these programs, I think we should not accept the idea that they are actually effective at preventing crime.

NateGambino2 karma

What do you think about the movie V For Vendetta?

fightforthefuture3 karma

Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta is a spectacular story about anarchy-inspired terrorism as a response to fascist rule. It's a dense, morally complicated piece of work that challenges us, as readers, to examine our political beliefs and consider how we are being manipulated by others, the extent of that manipulation, and the dire consequences for all of society that can be expected when we allow ourselves to be manipulated by ideological extremists.

The movie ... eh ... had some cool fight scenes, I guess? But it completely discards the Moore's challenging politics in favor of an easy tale about good guys and bad guys. That's the opposite of what Moore wanted to achieve.

So I say pick up the comic book and give it a read.