The bill’s goal is to combat the sexual exploitation of children. It contends that the criminals are hiding behind the veil of encryption provided by the tech platforms to conduct their heinous business. However, many privacy advocates have voiced concerns that under the lofty pretext, it curtails personal freedoms.
In a recent YouTube stream, Andreas Antolopoulos said that the controversial EARN IT Act might as well be called “Fuck you, Zuckerberg”.
The bi-partisan bill was written by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and if passed, it would:
“Create incentives for companies to “earn” liability protection for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material”.
Antonopoulos: civil rights aren’t EARNed
Talking to Cointelegraph, Antonopoulos disagreed with that premise:
“The EARN IT act is a backdoor encryption ban disguised as a modification of the DMCA act [Digital Millennium Copyright Act]. Civil rights aren’t “EARNed”, they are inalienable.”
He believes that the proposed bill would infringe on civil rights:
“The old trope “Won’t somebody think of the children” is used constantly to degrade freedoms. I think the children will not like living under totalitarian government control.”
Furthermore, he contends that the real target of the bill are not criminals, who will have access to encryption regardless, but regular citizens:
“Criminals will always have access to encryption that is strong and without backdoors. The only question here is whether law abiding citizens will. The rest is just manipulative propaganda without a shred of truth.”
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has exempted tech platforms, like Facebook and Google, from being held liable for the content posted by its users. EARN IT Act would alter the status quo by making tech companies earn exemptions for good behavior. A recent Wired article speculates that tech companies might have to abandon end-to-end encryption altogether:
“If it became law, companies might not be able to earn their liability exemption while offering end-to-end encrypted services.”
Facebook stands to lose the most
Predictably, Antonopoulos, who is known as a privacy advocate, had strong words of condemnation for the bill:
“Now, the EARN IT ACt could be called ‘Fuck you, Zuckerberg’. You’re going to give us backdoors because that’s effectively what it is. This is a very, very directed law that affects the largest content providers. It’s not just Zuckerberg, of course, but certainly Facebook has the most to lose from this, especially because of one application that they offer, which is called WhatsApp.”
Zero-knowledge transactions are in danger
Discussing the possible ramifications for the crypto space, Antonopoulos opined that the companies that “engage in zero-knowledge transactions” may be affected. He speculates that they will no longer be afforded protection from the liability posed by their users. At the same time, he believes that if passed, the EARN IT Act could accelerate decentralization:
“[It will] arguably, encourage more decentralization. So if a company has no control over its users transactions, then this doesn’t really apply. I think these types of regulations are really aimed at centralized organizations and platforms and in the long term, undermining end-to-end encryption and undermining freedoms that we consider necessary to encourage free speech and expression and encourage the growth of independent media platforms.”
Antonopoulos has no doubts that the bill will pass. Considering the bi-partizan nature of the proposed legislation and the guise of protecting children from molesters, he may be right.