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Senate Judiciary Readies Kids’ Safety Bill Markup

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected next week to mark up two pieces of legislation aimed at protecting children online. The committee on Thursday held over two bills that appeared on the agenda for the first time this year: the…

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Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (Earn It) Act (S-1207) and the Strengthening Transparency and Obligation to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (Stop CSAM Act). Introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the Earn It Act removes online platforms’ “blanket immunity” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for violations of law on online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The committee passed the bill by voice vote in 2022 (see 2202100071). The bill “imposes basic accountability on tech companies that are complicit in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” Blumenthal said in a statement. Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, introduced companion legislation in the House. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., filed his Stop CSAM Act, which would expand the “federal civil cause of action for child victims to also permit victims of online child sexual exploitation to bring a civil cause of action against tech platforms and app stores” that promote or facilitate exploitation. Durbin told reporters Wednesday he’s “still working” on gaining Republican support for his bill. He said during Thursday’s markup that he’s looking forward to discussions about kids safety legislation in the coming weeks. He’s consulted Graham about the process and thinks the top Judiciary Republican agrees this is a “historic and significant, maybe one of the most important things we do during the course of this year.” The modernization of sentencing on this issue is “long overdue,” said Durbin. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Wednesday urged Congress to pass the Earn It Act: “Congress never intended for Section 230 to permit and encourage online platforms to do nothing -- or worse -- facilitate the spread of CSAM.” Fight for the Future called the Earn It Act a “censorship and surveillance bill that risks the rights and safety of all who depend on encrypted services while making children less" safe. The bill “could lead to suspicionless scans of every online message, photo, and hosted file,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said. “In the name of fighting crime, the Earn It Act treats all internet users like we should be in a permanent criminal lineup, under suspicion for child abuse.”