Reopening the Pandora Box

As smart as human beings are known to be, we do suffer from a major tendency of making mistakes every now and then. Now, these mistakes are important in our bid for growth, but at times, they also end up having an exceedingly detrimental impact. You can argue that facing consequences is exactly how we should go about our process to improve over time; however, it becomes a problem when these consequences are actually being faced by the wider public. Yes, we are not referring to your everyday mistakes. Instead, this discussion revolves around the ones that are made pretty much deliberately. Throughout their history, humans have shown a clear knack of putting their interests above everyone else’s, and such a dynamic has led us to some really undesirable realities, thus triggering the world to introduce dedicated regulation of each individual’s actions. The setup proved to be a masterstroke, but it did not come without its challenges. For instance, when technology arrived on the scene, our regulatory industry was literally left scrambling. Suddenly, the rule breakers were able to do their thing in utmost secrecy, and that unsurprisingly spelled some major issues. Fortunately, though, we have come a long way from the said phase. With regulatory communities better equipped to go up against the tech-powered adversaries, we are witnessing a closer battle than we ever did before. In fact, in their latest blow, the regulators are now bringing a very controversial idea back on the table.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Lindsey Graham have officially reintroduced the EARN IT Act in the Congress. The bill was first presented on March 5th 2020, but as Covid 19 disrupted the necessary legislative procedures, it had to go on the shelf. EARN IT Act, which is essentially tipped to tackle the presence of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) on online platforms, has so far divided everyone in a rather aggressive way. While the supporters’ argument is obvious, the critics of the bill feel that it is designed to further damage the questionable privacy protections in place right now. The critics’ hesitation is also rooted in how the bill brazenly looks at weakening the Section 230 Communications Decency Act, a legislation that protects online platforms from any breaches committed on the users’ part. The possible damage to it turns apparent once you realize, if approved, the Act will mandate these platforms to follow certain practices, and in an event where any platform fails to comply, they’ll lose their Section 230 immunity. By creating such a dynamic, the EARN IT bill can affect freedom of speech in every negative way you can imagine.

“I see that as a way to just sort of hide the ball, but by stacking the standard-setting body with law enforcement types they’re all but ensuring that one of the ‘best practices’ will be not offering end-to-end encryption, or doing some kind of client-side scanning,” said Evan Greer, director of advocacy group Fight for the Future.

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