The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced a bill tying legal protections for online platforms to efforts to combat child sexual abuse material.
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act would amend Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to allow federal and state claims against online companies that host child exploitation content.
Section 230, which has come under increased scrutiny since President Trump targeted it in an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.
The legislation advanced on Thursday would create a government-backed commission to develop “best practices” for purging child sexual abuse material from the internet.
An earlier version of the bill had conditioned Section 230 liability protections on compliance with those best practices, but a manager’s amendment from Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) removed that tie after intense criticism. The amendment was unanimously approved on Thursday.
Graham and Blumenthal’s amendment also removed a portion of the bill that would have opened up companies to lawsuits if they “recklessly” provided a service that was then used in the distribution of child exploitation.
Despite the unanimous approval of the amended measure, it still faces harsh opposition in the Senate and among some advocacy groups.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) slammed the new version of the bill Wednesday, saying it would do little to stop child sex abuse material online and also endanger encryption.