Protect Young Eyes (PYE) has issued the following letter of support to Senators Lindsey Graham (R – SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D – NH), and Representatives Sylvia Garcia (D – TX) and Ann Wagner (R – MO) for their legislation, the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2022 (EARN IT Act of 2022).
We’ve included a special call-to-action for any parent, grandparent, friend, or follower who reads this. We need YOU if this is going to pass!
Dear Senators Graham and Blumenthal, and Representatives Garcia and Wagner:
On behalf of Protect Young Eyes and the thousands of families that we serve through our nation-wide educational efforts, I am writing to express our support for your legislation, the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2022 (EARN IT Act of 2022).
I began Protect Young Eyes six years ago because the internet is complex and even diligent parents are overwhelmed by the digital choices their children are facing. Through thousands of hours of research, hundreds of presentations at schools around the country, and dozens of articles examining digital trends, we have witnessed both the wonderful potential and the troubling and pervasive darkness that exists in the pockets of millions of young people today.
For far too long, electronic service providers (ESPs) have benefited from a digital landscape that favored their growth and expansion by giving them limitless immunity for their content, at the expense of the safety and protection of our children.
PYE supports the EARN IT Act because it provides ESPs with a roadmap to begin a new chapter. One that asks them to adopt specific and consistent best practices developed by industry and subject matter experts to prevent, reduce, and respond to the online sexual exploitation of children. Currently, the immunity provided by Section 230 of the Telecommunications Decency Act provides almost no incentive for ESPs to utilize consistent best practices across all of their platforms. As a result, teens, children, and even infants (1) are sexually exploited and trafficked online by predators who share images of their sexual abuse freely across the internet.
EARN IT also updates federal statutes to use the term child sexual abuse material (CSAM) instead of child pornography. The term child pornography fails to describe the true nature of the videos and images and undermines the seriousness of the abuse.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shared this data from 2021:
In 2021, NCMEC received more than 29.3 million (up 35% over 2020) CyberTipline reports containing over 84.9 million images, videos, and other content related to suspected child sexual exploitation (up 29.8% over 2020). In light of the increasing high volume of child sexual exploitation material being traded online, legislative initiatives are needed now more than ever to address the increasing distribution of child sexual abuse material online and the harm this distribution inflicts on child victims and their families. (2)
This cannot continue. Not on our watch. Which is why PYE is proud to support this important legislation. We join 250+ other organizations in the movement to end the online sexual exploitation of children, including RAINN, International Justice Mission, Operation Underground Railroad, and The National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
As I stated during the Protecting Innocence hearing in 2019, which started this critical conversation, I cannot think of anything more noble for us to be spending our time on than the safety and protection of our nation’s children.
Thank you, Senators Graham and Blumenthal, and Representatives Garcia and Wagner for having the courage to defend the most vulnerable among us with EARN IT. Your leadership is admirable, and I and our followers are ready to lock arms with you and see this through. It’s time to #protectkidsonline.
Link to our Instagram post with more details about EARN IT.
Now It’s Time for Action on EARN IT!
(1) In 2019, the NY Times published a multi-part expose on the explosion of digital child sexual abuse, which ignited a rigorous debate about privacy and protection. The NY Times explored the topic further in a series of 2020 podcasts, starting with We Had No Idea How Dark This Story Would Get while summarizing what they uncovered and how the public reacted. Recent pushback to EARN IT thinks that I’m exaggerating when I state that “teens, children, and infants” are being sexually exploited. So here’s my simple request: read this, this, and this. Then, tell me what you think. Can we do better?
(2) Opposition to EARN IT enjoys saying things like, “Child advocacy groups spread incoherent messages, like simultaneously saying, “Look at all of the reported images!” while also saying, “Big Tech is impervious to such images!”” (Elizabeth Nolan Brown – reason.com) I invite Ms. Brown to dig into the data. In 2020, of the 21.7M CSAM reports, 20.3M came from Meta (94%). This means that the combination of the other 150+ ESPs that reported, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and Snap accounted for less than 6.5% of the total. Even 4Chan reported more CSAM than Apple. “Impervious” seems pretty accurate.