Portman and Colleagues Introduce EARN IT Act to Combat Online Child Sexual Exploitation

February 1, 2022

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WASHINGTON DC – US Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and a number of bipartisan colleagues have introduced legislation to better address online child sexual exploitation. the Eliminate Abusive and Creepy Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) removes blanket immunity for violations of online child sexual exploitation material (CSAM) laws.

Led by US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the legislation is also co-sponsored by Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Josh Hawley (R-MO) , Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cindy Hyde – Smith (R-MS) and Mark Warner (D-VA). Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) introduced complementary legislation in the House of Representatives.

“No business should ever profit from the exploitation of a child, or avoid legal liability in court,” said Senator Portman. “That’s why I’m pleased to co-sponsor this important legislation to remove the blanket immunity for technology companies granted by Section 230 of the federal and state child sexual abuse laws. This legislation ensures that online platforms will be now treated like everyone else in our efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation.

“There are tens of millions of photos and videos floating around the internet showing the most heinous acts of child sexual abuse and torture,” said Senator Graham. “The EARN IT Act removes the general liability protection of Section 230 from service providers in the area of ​​child sexual abuse material on their sites. To all the victims groups and law enforcement agencies who are urging Congress to do something about the scourge of child pornography and child exploitation on the Internet: we hear you. The days when children were exploited on the internet and their families couldn’t do anything about it are coming to an end.

“The EARN IT Act is very simply about whether technology companies should be held liable for their complicity in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children when they refuse to report or remove images of these crimes hosted on their platforms, said Senator Blumenthal. “The modern internet is infested with heartbreaking images of children who have been brutally abused and exploited, and who are haunted by a lifetime of pain after these photos and videos have been disseminated online. Tech companies have long had access easy to inexpensive or even free tools to combat the scourge of child sexual exploitation material, but have failed to act.Millions of these gruesome images go unidentified or flagged by the tech platforms that host, because there are so few consequences when these companies look the other way. It ends with the EARN IT Act.

“There’s no reason Big Tech should have special immunity from child pornography laws,” said Senator Hawley. “This common sense bill was unanimously approved in committee at the last Congress. Big Tech must be held accountable for its role in the distribution of child pornography.

“Online child exploitation is beyond abhorrent, and tech companies must step up their fight against the widespread and growing problem of online child abuse,” said Senator Durbin. “The EARN IT Act – targeted, bipartisan legislation that responds to this urgent challenge – was passed unanimously by the Judiciary Committee at the last Congress. I am happy to again support this bill and will work to ensure its rapid adoption.

“Online child sexual exploitation is a gross and sickening crime. Unfortunately, the use of online platforms has increased the spread of child sexual abuse material, with children across the United States, including Alaska, being groomed, lured, exploited, trafficked and abused by the through online platforms that many Americans use every day. And, despite clear and demonstrated ramifications, online child sexual exploitation has not received a cohesive and forceful response from the tech industry,” said Senator Murkowski. “I am pleased to be part of the introduction of legislation that will help bring law enforcement, technology and survivors together to determine the best methods to combat child sexual exploitation in line.”

“Protecting our children from sexual predators is something we all agree on, and it’s high time tech companies took the scourge of online child sexual exploitation seriously,” said Senator Ernst. “I am proud to support this bipartisan effort that will help modernize our internet laws to combat the proliferation of child sexual exploitation material online and encourage the tech industry to protect children from sexual exploitation on their platforms.”

“Companies cannot simply ignore child exploitation on their online platforms,” said Senator Feinstein. “Companies that fail to take steps to prevent child exploitation should not be protected from prosecution. I hope the Senate will be able to act quickly to address this growing problem.

“Online child exploitation remains a serious and growing problem that must be cooperatively addressed by Congress and Big Tech. The EARN IT Act would set this serious effort in motion. Protecting children from predators, pornographers and worse demands that we act, said Senator Hyde-Smith.

“We need to equip law enforcement with the resources they need to fight child sex trafficking and abuse,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “As big tech companies evolve, we need to make sure we protect our children, who are all too often vulnerable to online exploitation. I will continue to work across the aisle to get this legislation passed and ensure child safety.

“I am proud to join my colleagues on this important bill that would protect children from exploitation and bring needed reforms to Section 230,” said Senator Warner.

“Far too many children across the country are at risk of being exploited online. To strengthen safeguards, we need to ensure our laws keep up with ever-changing technology,” said Senator Collins. “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill that would encourage tech companies to step up their efforts to protect children.”

“Tech companies have a responsibility to crack down on child sexual exploitation material on their platforms, and we must hold accountable the predators who engage in these horrific crimes,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill will pressure tech companies to work to protect children and to treat these crimes with the seriousness and urgency they deserve.”

Highlights of the WIN IT Act:

  • Creates a strong incentive for the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to entirely remove blanket immunity from federal civil, state criminal, and state civil child sexual abuse laws. Service providers will now be treated like everyone else when it comes to tackling child sexual exploitation and eradicating CSAM, creating accountability.
  • Establishes a National Commission on the Prevention of Online Child Sexual Exploitation to develop voluntary best practices. The Commission is made up of the heads of the DOJ, DHS, and FTC, along with 16 other members appointed equally by congressional leadership, including representatives from law enforcement, survivor service organizations, and victims, constitutional law experts, technical and industry experts.
  • Remedies for survivors and enforcement tools. The law project strengthens enforcement of child sexual abuse material laws and enables survivors to seek civil redress.

the WIN IT Act is supported by more than 240 groups, survivors and stakeholders, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, International Justice Mission and Major Cities Chiefs Association.

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