Blockchain, News & Updates

“EARN IT” is an Act that is a Dire Threat to Encryption; Critics say

The provocative EARN IT Act has been watered down for its recent move to the US House of Representatives. However, the encryption and cryptocurrency experts are still echoing what they have been saying for months:

“Legislation that can regulate the internet is inherently hazardous.”

The proposed law will corrode the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects the online platform providers – anyone from Facebook up to small website owners – from being held liable for what the users had posted.

However, under the EARN IT Act, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, which was introduced in the House in the previous week, platforms can now be sued for the users’ content as long as the complaint relates to the crimes against children, like child pornography.

The bill has featured a last-minute amendment that guarantees the legal protection to the platforms that use the end-to-end encryption, a system in which the platforms can’t read the users’ messages. However, experts are still wary. They taught that the website owners would bump up the content surveillance to avoid pricey litigation competition in the first place, Marta Belcher said, a blockchain law expert and special counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“If you have platforms that suddenly are going to be subject to these lawsuits, they’re going to have to really closely monitor and censor users,” she added.

The act’s original version was more rigorous; also, the interest groups have named it a thinly covered attempt to allow the law enforcement access to private content. Although with its new precautions, the bill’s current version is still having “serious loopholes” when it comes to encryption, Belcher elaborated.

For example, CDA 230 has prevented the states from passing the laws to manipulate the internet. But when the EARN IT act has passed, it will open more regulatory leeway for the jurisdictions.

“I can definitely see governments using this as a hammer to go after any service that allows any kind of encrypted communication,” said Matthew Green, he is a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the creators of the protocol behind the Zcash cryptocurrency.

The effects have proposed Legislation that would have on the cryptocurrency sphere remains foggy. Many crypto networks are using encryption to host user content, while others don’t. Whichever way, the bill is a direct departure from the cypherpunk ethos that had created the cryptocurrency, said the BCH-encrypt founder, Chris Troutner.

“We need end-to-end encryption, and we need uncensorable money,” Troutner added. “These aren’t nice-to-haves. They’re absolute requirements.”

The leadership of the EARN IT Act is also waving red flags in the crypto community. When passed, the law will create a commission that further recommends different ways to prevent child exploitation online. The US Attorney Gen. William Barr will lead the 19-member group. For its part, the commission’s recommendations can disincentivize the state legislatures from upholding the privacy practices.

This type of Legislation is not new. The bipartisan efforts to bypass encryption protocols have been around for several years, and then the EARN IT Act is just the latest ploy, Matthew Green stated.

“It is something to be worried about, even if we don’t know how it’s going to develop,” said Green.

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