Feb 15 2022

ICYMI: Survivors, Law Enforcement Leaders, And Child Safety Advocates Praise Committee Approval Of EARN IT Act

WASHINGTON – Last week, a coalition of survivors, law enforcement leaders, and child safety advocates praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) at a press conference hosted by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). The bipartisan legislation would remove blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Joining Graham and Blumenthal were representatives from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, Courtney’s House, Enough is Enough, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Match Group.

Yiota Souras, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) said: “Most importantly, this is a bill focused on the survivors. It enables survivor participation and best practices, provides survivors with their day in court against everyone who knowingly participates in distributing their images online, and it will finally catch the United States up to the rest of the world by calling this abuse what it is – not child pornography, but child sexual abuse material.”

Samantha Cadet, Director of Federal Affairs, Appropriations, and National Coalitions for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) read an anonymous survivor statement that said: “My CSAM was tweeted online like baseball cards for pedophiles…We shouldn’t need accountability in tech, but these companies have lost all humanity and refuse to use technology that has existed for years to stop my exploitation. Survivors of CSAM struggle in the midst of healing and cannot always speak up as often as we would like because we avoid unwanted attention. But I refuse to be silent. We shouldn’t have to force companies to do the right thing, but they pretend to care, then use CDA 230 to shut the courtroom doors on us. The EARN IT Act of 2022 will help stop this endless invasion of my privacy that will otherwise continue for the rest of my life, even long after I’m gone. I never saw a solution before. If the EARN IT Act passes, then maybe the images of my childhood suffering will be offline by the time my own kids grow up.”

Camille Cooper, Vice President of Public Policy for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) said: “Millions of images depicting the abuse of children are distributed across the internet every week. These are not images of simple nudity. According to Interpol, 84% of these images depict actual sexual abuse. 47% of these images depict sadistic abuse including bondage and torture. Children are seen in these images crying for daddy to stop, some of them are kept in dog cages. Most of these children are under the age of 12. Many of these children are infants and toddlers. Infants and toddlers…Technology companies allow these images to be distributed over and over and over again across their networks. Why? Because they have absolutely zero incentive to stop it.”

Tina Frundt, Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House said: “It shouldn’t be ever put on a child to request that their videos and photos be taken off. Someone who is traumatized and cannot follow up on it…on Reddit right now…you can see children right now from a man who bought sex…putting their age, putting how much they bought for them, and where they live in the city. Imagine going to school and seeing these people and they’re confronting you and asking your price in person that they saw online. See, that’s what’s really going on and the tech world isn’t understanding the reality of what people see online. They see that in public, and they’re approaching these children not as children, but as people they want to buy sex from that’s online using those platforms. We cannot ignore that anymore. And this bill will not allow that to ignore any more.”

Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center of Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said: “In August, in a case that NCOSE is involved with against Twitter for hosting CSAM, a judge ruled…that CDA 230 gives the company immunity. CSAM victims who made similar claims against Kik, Reddit, Omegle have had their cases dismissed on similar 230 grounds. Congress must clarify its intent. We need the EARN IT Act so survivors of these horrific crimes know where they stand and the courts have a clear understanding of Congressional intent, mainly that section 230 does not immunize knowing possession and distribution of CSAM.”

Kathy Hatem, Director of Communications for Enough Is Enough said: “There needs to be a paradigm shift regarding Big Tech’s response to child online sexual exploitation. The EARN IT Act dismantles Big Tech’s unearned immunity for CSAM one bite at a time. Immunity must be earned through accountability. We urge all members of the Senate and the House to stand shoulder to shoulder and support the EARN IT Act for the sake of the children.”

A coalition of 258 organizations representing survivors of child exploitation and sex trafficking from all 50 states and the District of Columbia also published a letter of support calling on Congress to pass the EARN IT Act. The full text of the letter is available here.

The EARN IT Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).

U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.