How the situation around the ban on end-to-end encryption is developing – analysis of the latest events

We will tell you what regulators in different countries are doing, what kind of reaction from experts and the public their initiatives lead to, and whether to expect increased pressure on business.

PS Yesterday we talked about the interest of the Romanian Internet providers market.

Flickr / Richard Patterson
Flickr / Richard Patterson

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In the spring we told on proposed amendments to Section 230 Federal Communications Act of the United States. They plan to make them with the help of EARNITA or EARN IT Act’a – stands for “Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act“.

In simple terms, the “act” is intended to toughen the responsibility of companies that own web services, social networks, media and any other Internet resources for content distributed by users and various offenses, for example, against the legitimate interests of children and their representatives.

In the first versions of the document, the focus was on the procedure for checking the filtering algorithms used on the side of the sites to identify and combat suspicious content. Requirements for such an audit should have been formulated by a special commission headed by the US attorney general, and for its passage – the bill guaranteed companies immunity from prosecution for illegal actions of third parties. (By the way, such protection is assumed by default acting edition 230th section federal law.)

By October, the commission’s role in the amendments had diminished, and states had more authority to regulate content moderation “rules”. Bill submitted for consideration senators and congressmen, and the Internet business was temporarily left in a state of uncertainty.

Unsplash / Felipepelaquim
Unsplash / Felipepelaquim

At the time of the release of our first material on the topic, which launched discussion for more than three hundred comments, the expert community drew attention to the excessive nature of the changes and the possible side effects from the adoption of the document in this form.

In the first case, it was about the fact that the practice of detecting user offenses already exists. A significant number of sites, social networks and content platforms have introduced content moderation algorithms for a long time. In fact they perform requirements of the “original” version of EARNITA, but of course not ready to meet the requests of individual states.

Fears were caused by the prospect of total end-to-end encryption restrictions… Plus – a request from the special services of several countries for embedding backdoors

The situation around the last moment is developing in parallel with the discussion of the “act”. Over the past ten years, more and more examples of such experiments at the level of individual states have appeared – in Germany they are engaged in since 2011

From posts to chats

Banning end-to-end encryption has been discussed for years. But some countries – like Australia – are proactive. There was a business two years ago obliged provide keys to special services.

In turn, in the UK topic promote since 2017, and last year – the local Government Communications Center (GCHQ) even proposed embed “invisible interlocutors in suspicious” chats and calls. The initiative was followed by a sharp reaction from IT companies, but the UK only increased the pressure the other day used an international lever in the form of the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance, which includes the same Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Unsplash / Clint Patterson
Unsplash / Clint Patterson

Allies signed a joint communiqué on end-to-end encryption with India and Japan, which have confirmed their aspiration become full members of the alliance as soon as possible. Interestingly, the press gave the most attention to the possible consequences for Facebook and Apple, but did not emphasize the fact that in the future, regulation will spread absolutely for all Internet companies.

What’s next

The Five Eyes joint statement does not have legislative status, so the IT sector and the public can simply ignore it. On the other hand, this year came out many revelatory publications of NSA surveillance programs, but made whether someone draws conclusions on their basis regarding the prospects for the adoption of something like the EARN IT Act, which implies mass filtering (and responsibility) of content, but already on the side of companies – time will tell.

Additional reading on the topic and not only:

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