Representatives Sylvia Garcia and Ann Wagner Introduce the Bipartisan EARN IT Act in the House of Representatives

September 30, 2020
Press Release
Media Contact: Robert Julien (DC): Email: Robert.julien@mail.house.gov; Cell: 202-227-0330

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced the bipartisan Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act. This piece of legislation is the House companion bill to the bipartisan Senate version, which was introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and has already been unanimously passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“As elected officials, there is no greater responsibility than making sure that we are keeping our children safe,” said Congresswoman Garcia. “That is why I am proud to be introducing the bipartisan EARN IT Act, which will ensure that we are taking the necessary precautions to protect our children by preventing and responding to online child sexual abuse material. We must use the full force of the law to hold those accountable that would take advantage of our children or violate child sexual abuse laws.”

“I’m proud to join with my colleague Rep. Sylvia Garcia in introducing the EARN IT Act, critical legislation that will hold accountable bad actors that facilitate child sexual abuse material,” said Congresswoman Wagner. "As I have said many times, I believe that if exploitation is a crime offline, it should also be a crime online, and I’m delighted to continue working with survivors, advocates, law enforcement, and industry to protect children from online sexual exploitation.”

The EARN IT Act will facilitate the creation of best practices to prevent and respond to online child sexual abuse material; enable online companies to be held civilly liable and subject to state prosecution if they violate child sexual abuse laws; enhance reporting to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline; and modernize language to ensure these crimes are referred to as child sexual abuse, rather than child pornography.

The EARN IT Act will achieve these goals through the following legislative provisions that will:

  1. Create an expert Commission composed of representatives from government agencies, law enforcement, prosecutors, academia, survivors/nonprofits, and technology companies. The Commission will compile advisory best practices relating to preventing, reducing, and responding to online child sexual exploitation. Best practices will be voluntary, not mandatory or binding, and will serve to guide companies that wish to implement measures to protect children from sexual exploitation online.
  2. Amend the Communications Decency Act to enable interactive service providers to be subject to Federal and State civil liability and State criminal liability under child pornography laws.
  3. Replace “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” throughout the U.S. criminal code.
  4. Enhance the NCMEC CyberTipline to require reporting of child sex trafficking and online enticement, streamline reporting, and enable information-sharing to respond to child sexual abuse material.
  5. Allow a court to consider evidence of actions or circumstances relating to materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors if the evidence is otherwise admissible.
  6. Provide that actions or services involving encrypted messaging services shall not serve as an independent basis for liability of interactive service providers for a claim or charge relating to child sexual abuse material.

Click here for the full bill text. 

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Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018, becoming the first Latina ever to represent the Texas 29th Congressional District. She serves on the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committees.