Signal Openly Opposes the EARN IT Act and Invites People to Join It

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 25, 2021

The new bill proposition entitled “Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies,“ or the “EARN IT” Act, has already raised a lot of controversies. The bill aims to lift the “Section 230” provisions (that refer to the protection of online speech) and make them attainable. Moreover, it proposes aggregating a commission that would investigate crimes against children. However, not many are convinced that protecting minors from online dangers is the primary goal of the legislators. Signal, the popular end-to-end encryption app, is one of them. It recently published a post on its blog calling Americans to take action against the new bill.

As the piece rightfully points out, empowering a 1-9member committee consisting mostly of law enforcement agents to decide who could or couldn’t continue to enjoy Section 230 protection would be catastrophic for the online freedom of speech. Almost certainly, smaller entities like Signal would bend under the insurmountable legal pressure generated by numerous lawsuits due to things that users may have posted. Thus, if EARN IT Act passes, we would soon be left with a clearnet comprising only tech behemoths like Google and Facebook, while everyone else would be wiped - at least as far as the United States internet is concerned.

As an encrypted communications tool, Signal has an additional reason to be concerned with the “EARN IT” bill, since many consider it a legal opportunity to add technical backdoors. The new proposal could very easily compel platforms to provide encryption backdoors to authorities as part of their compliance with the “best practices” that would be required to continue enjoying Section 230 protections. As Riana Pfefferkorn writes in the CIS blog, this is almost definitely to be expected.

So, if the bill passes, where would that leave Signal and other tech startups? Simply put, they would have to relocate outside the United States and away from endless legal trouble. Right now, senators and their staff use Signal, and so does the US Army, as well as various allies of the country in the EU. Ousting Signal and other encrypted communications platforms from the United States will only undermine the security and privacy of the nation in general. Signal encourages US citizens to put pressure on their political representatives and ask them to withdraw their support of the EARN IT bill. There’s still time to send a message that will put EARN IT in the same drawer where the SOPA and PIPA bills ended up, even in times when we’re occupied with other problems.

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