U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) are taking steps to combat online child exploitation.
Blackburn, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tech Task Force Masto on Tuesday in a statement said they introduced the Eliminate Network Distribution of Child Exploitation Act.
The act’s purpose is to lengthen evidence preservation time in online child exploitation cases and to help law enforcement in prosecuting these crimes. Technology platforms like Facebook and Tumblr will be required to preserve evidence for 180 days—double the current period of 90 days—for reports of online child exploitation submitted to the CyberTipline, the nation’s core program for facilitating the reporting of online child sexual abuse content.
Blackburn said, “Crimes that once occurred solely in the physical space are now dominating the virtual world. Technology companies that are a hub for youth social interactions should recognize the need to assist law enforcement in their information gathering efforts. The END Child Exploitation Act brings anti-trafficking efforts into the 21st century so that perpetrators may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Masto said, “I’ve spent my career, both as Attorney General of Nevada and as a United States Senator, working to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and trafficking. That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Blackburn in introducing this legislation, which will preserve crucial evidence in cases of online child exploitation for longer, giving law enforcement more time to go after criminals.”
Doubling the evidence retention period gives law enforcement more time to investigate and prosecute these heinous crimes against children and keep online communities safe. Faced with a growing number of reports and limited resources, law enforcement authorities often run up against the clock when seeking evidence from tech platforms, and too often, evidence is lost when the preservation period expires. The bill amends 18 U.S.C. § 2258A, which governs reporting requirements for online child exploitation submitted to the CyberTipline.
John Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, endorsed the bill.
Clark said, “I commend them for the introduction of this bill and for their dedication to the safety of our nation’s children.”
Yoes said, “There are certain crimes that strike at the core of who we are as a society and the online sexual exploitation of children is one of them.”
In 2018, tech companies reported over 45 million photos and videos of children being sexually abused, The New York Times said. That number is more than double that of 2017. The number surpassed 1 million for the first time in 2014.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.