The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies or EARN IT Act (S. 3398) is a US Federal bill with the alleged goal to identify and remove child sexual abuse materials online. While this is a worthy goal, the bill’s mandate is concerningly broad and does nothing to prevent abuse before it happens. Instead, EARN IT furthers the reach of the government to use online platforms, such as social media sites and messaging applications, as surveillance tools. Like FOSTA-SESTA, the bill would harm sex workers ability to use these online platforms for community building, client screening, sexual health education, and other safety measures. By further limiting access to the internet, EARN IT will only exacerbate the hardships sex workers already face due to FOSTA-SESTA and COVID-19.
Along with the Sex Workers Project, the EARN IT Act is opposed by many human rights organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Hacking//Hustling, LGBT Tech, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, and Human Rights Watch, among others. These organizations and SWP oppose EARN IT due to its implications for sex workers, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, people seeking sexual and reproductive health education online, as well as the bill’s expansion of the government’s reach to censor and surveil people online which will infringe on individual’s first amendment right to free speech and fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Instead of EARN IT, which will not stop the hideous sexual abuse of children online, we need to:
- Fund social services and community-based programs that seek to prevent abuse in the first place.
- Pass the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act (H.R. 5448) to assess FOSTA-SESTA and further understand its impact on sex workers and other marginalized communities.
- Engage sex workers and other affected communities in policy making.
What’s Happening Now:
The EARN IT Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Lindsay Graham (Republican, South Carolina) on March 5, 2020. The bill was then assigned to the Judiciary Committee for review. Following amendments to the bill, it was voted unanimously out of the Committee.
On September 30, 2020, Representatives Sylvia Garcia (Democrat, Texas) and Ann Wagner (Republican, Missouri) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. The bill will now be assigned to up to two committees for review. Following this review, the Senate will hold a vote.
What You Can Do:
- Educate yourself about the EARN IT Act.
- Keep up to date on the bill’s progress through Congress.
- Let your Senators and Representatives in Congress know that you oppose EARN IT.
- Write letters to the editor, blog, and post on your social media. Make your opposition known!
- Email SWP to learn more about lobbying your representatives and other ways to get involved.