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Woodhull Launches Petition to Block EARN IT Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 20, 2022 — Washington, DC

(September 20, 2022/Washington, D.C.) The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the national advocacy organization for sexual rights, has launched a petition demanding Senators meet with Woodhull and other groups concerned about the controversial EARN IT Act. The EARN IT Act incentivizes internet platforms to broadly censor legal speech under the pretense of pursuing illegal content.

“This attack on internet freedom is an attack on the First Amendment, and an attack on human rights,” says Ricci Joy Levy, President and CEO of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. “The EARN IT Act allows the government to strong arm private companies into censoring legal speech that the government itself is prohibited from censoring. We can and should work to stop illegal content, but such efforts should not be used to silence legal sexual expression.”

The EARN IT Act would make internet platforms legally liable for any illegal sexual content posted to their platforms or service — even if they aggressively block and immediately remove such content. At a time when anyone can upload an image and have it appear instantaneously online, EARN IT would leave almost every site vulnerable to bad actors and immediate legal liability. To avoid any potential liability, platforms would have little choice but to block any account sharing sex-related content.

We all should be engaged in the fight against illegal content, and should work with platforms to make sure that image-based sexual abuse is quickly blocked and reported. But we can do this without sacrificing our right to legal sexual expression.

The EARN IT Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2022 on a unanimous vote. Since then the bill has attracted additional bipartisan co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. EARN IT has been opposed by a wide range of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Library Association (ALA), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Sex Workers Project, the Free Speech Coalition, Fight for the Future, Reframe Health and Justice, GLAAD, the Wikimedia Foundation, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and dozens of other sex worker, civil liberties and free speech groups.

“With election season upon us and a growing political panic around sexual expression, it’s more important than ever for us to educate our legislators on the dangers of this bill,” says Levy. “Our petition will help us show legislators the scope of the human rights opposition to this bill. EARN IT would be a dramatic escalation of government censorship we saw with FOSTA, a bill that has harmed countless people.”

Woodhull Freedom Foundation is a named plaintiff in the ongoing legal challenge to FOSTA, a 2018 law that decimated safer, online spaces for sex workers under the pretense of pursuing sex traffickers. Woodhull is currently funding a study at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to document the real world effect of the bill on sex workers.

Woodhull encourages those concerned about the bill to read Woodhull’s opposition letter, and sign the petition here.

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