February 01, 2022

Cortez Masto Introduces Legislation to Hold Tech Industry Accountable, Prevent Online Child Sexual Exploitation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in introducing bipartisan legislation to push the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) removes blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

“We need to empower law enforcement with the resources they need to crack down on the trafficking and sexual abuse of children,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “As big technology companies evolve, we must make sure to protect our kids, who are too often left vulnerable to exploitation online. I will continue to work across the aisle to pass this legislation and keep children safe.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives websites immunity from civil liability, as well as from state criminal liability, for content on their platforms posted by third parties. Sadly, these protections have allowed many big tech companies to not aggressively go after online child sexual exploitation. The EARN IT Act removes those Section 230 blanket liability protections from service providers in the area of child sexual abuse material on their sites. Specifically, it will:

  • Create a strong incentive for the tech industry to take online child sexual exploitation seriously. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove blanket immunity from Federal civil, State criminal, and State civil child sexual abuse material laws entirely. Service providers will now be treated like everyone else when it comes to combating child sexual exploitation and eradicating CSAM, creating accountability.
  • Establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention that will be responsible for developing voluntary best practices. The Commission consists of the heads of DOJ, DHS, and FTC, along with 16 other members appointed equally by Congressional leadership, including representatives from: law enforcement, survivors and victims’ services organizations, constitutional law experts, technical experts, and industry.
  • Provide recourse for survivors and tools for enforcement. The bill bolsters enforcement of child sexual abuse material statutes and allows survivors civil recourse.

The EARN IT Act is supported by more than 240 groups, survivors and stakeholders, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, International Justice Mission, and Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Throughout her career, Senator Cortez Masto has worked closely with the law enforcement community to increase resources needed to identify and stop child trafficking and exploitation online. She has introduced the END Child Exploitation Act to provide law enforcement with the authority they need to better investigate online exploitation and hold perpetrators accountable. She also introduced the bipartisan FIND Trafficking Act, which was recently signed into law and requires the Government Accountability Office to study how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to facilitate sex trafficking and make recommendations on how to fight, detect and deter these illegal activities.