Signal Speaks Out About The Evils Of The EARN IT Act

from the speak-out,-in-encrypted-fashion dept

Signal, the end-to-end encrypted app maker, doesn't really need Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It can't see what everyone's saying via its offering anyway, so there's little in the way of moderation to do. But, still, it's good to see it come out with a strong condemnation of the EARN IT Act, which as been put forth by Senators Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, and Josh Hawley as a way to undermine both Section 230 of the CDA and end-to-end encryption in the same bill. The idea is to effectively use one as a wedge against the other. Under the bill, companies will have to "earn" their 230 protections, by putting in place a bunch of recommended "best practices" which can be effectively put in place by the US Attorney General -- the current holder of which, Bill Barr, has made clear that he hates end-to-end encryption and thinks its a shame the DOJ can't spy on everyone. And this isn't just this administration. Law enforcement officials, such as James Comey under Obama, were pushing this ridiculous line of thinking as well.

To be clear, the EARN IT Act might not have a huge direct impact on a company like Signal -- since it doesn't really much rely on 230 protections (though it might at the margins). But it's good to see that it recognizes what a terrible threat the EARN IT Act would be:

It is as though the Big Bad Wolf, after years of unsuccessfully trying to blow the brick house down, has instead introduced a legal framework that allows him to hold the three little pigs criminally responsible for being delicious and destroy the house anyway. When he is asked about this behavior, the Big Bad Wolf can credibly claim that nothing in the bill mentions “huffing” or “puffing” or “the application of forceful breath to a brick-based domicile” at all, but the end goal is still pretty clear to any outside observer.

However as Signal makes clear, getting rid of end-to-end encryption is much more likely to harm everyone, without providing much help to law enforcement in the first place:

Bad people will always be motivated to go the extra mile to do bad things. If easy-to-use software like Signal somehow became inaccessible, the security of millions of Americans (including elected officials and members of the armed forces) would be negatively affected. Meanwhile, criminals would just continue to use widely available (but less convenient) software to jump through hoops and keep having encrypted conversations.

There is still time to make your voice heard. We encourage US citizens to reach out to their elected officials and express their opposition to the EARN IT bill. You can find contact information for your representatives using The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Action Center.

Stay safe. Stay inside. Stay encrypted.

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Filed Under: communications, earn it, encryption, intermediary liability, secrecy, section 230
Companies: signal

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2020 @ 12:30am

    I don't see laws being enforced very well.

    That is precisely the point. Nobody intends to enforce this law at all well. It will be enforced selectively: to suit some prosecutor's need for publicity, or to avenge some unfortunately-elected politician's feelings over something mean someone wrote about him on the intertubes.

    You might say this law is designed to be enforced badly.

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