Wyden, Eshoo, Fitzpatrick Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Children from Online Exploitation
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to confront online child exploitation and reverse a decade of underfunding key enforcement and prevention efforts.
The Invest in Child Safety Act would direct more than $5 billion in mandatory funding to investigate and target the predators and abusers who create and share child sexual abuse material online. It also directs substantial new funding for community-based efforts to prevent children from becoming victims in the first place. The legislation would also create a new office within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to coordinate efforts across federal agencies, after the DOJ refused to comply with a 2008 law requiring coordination and reporting of those efforts.
“The federal government has a responsibility and moral obligation to protect children from exploitation online, but right now it’s failing in large part because of a lack of funding and coordination,” Wyden said. “It’s time for a new approach to find child predators, prosecute these monsters, and help protect children from becoming victims in the first place – and that’s why we are introducing the Invest in Child Safety Act.”
“Protecting children is the most important thing I do in Congress and we have to do more to ensure that they’re safe from sexual exploitation,” Eshoo said. “I'm proud to join my colleagues to introduce the Invest in Child Safety Act to ensure there is substantial funding to support the victims of sexual exploitation and put predators behind bars. Our bill will boost enforcement resources to federal and state agencies and provide increased funding for evidence-based programs to detect, prevent and support victims of child sexual abuse, including school-based mental health services and prevention programs. By passing this legislation, America’s children will be protected.”
“Law enforcement agencies are unfortunately overwhelmed responding to the amount of child sexual abuse proliferating online,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation that would give our hero law enforcement additional tools and resources to crack down on these heinous criminals. It’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our children.”
The Invest in Child Safety Act – which was first introduced in 2020 – would require a historic, mandatory investment in personnel and funding to take on child exploitation, including:
- Quadruple the number of prosecutors and agents in DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section from 30 FTEs to 120 FTEs;
- Add 100 new agents and investigators for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Innocent Images National Initiative, Crimes Against Children Unit, Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, and Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces;
- Fund 65 new NCMEC analysts, engineers, and mental health counselors, as well as a major upgrade to NCMEC’s technology platform to enable the organization to more effectively evaluate and process CSAM reports from tech companies;
- Double funding for the state Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces;
- Double funding for the National Criminal Justice Training Center, to administer crucial Internet Crimes Against Children and Missing and Exploited Children training programs;
- Increase funding for evidence-based programs, local governments and non-federal entities to detect, prevent and support victims of child sexual abuse, including school-based mental health services and prevention programs like the Children’s Advocacy Centers and the HHS’ Street Outreach Program;
- Require tech companies to increase the time that they hold evidence of CSAM, in a secure database, to enable law enforcement agencies to prosecute older cases;
- Establish an Office to Enforce and Protect Against Child Sexual Exploitation, within the Executive Office of the President, to direct and streamline the federal government’s efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute the scourge of child exploitation;
- Require the Office to develop an enforcement and protection strategy, in coordination with HHS and GAO; and
- Require the Office to submit annual monitoring reports, subject to mandatory Congressional testimony to ensure timely execution.
In addition to Wyden, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Peter Welch, D-Vt., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in the Senate. In addition to Eshoo and Fitzpatrick, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in the House.
The bill is endorsed by: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Children’s Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, National District Attorneys Association, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Family Online Safety Institute, and the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association.
“"We know there is strong evidence that child sexual abuse has increased at a frightening rate due to expanded use of, and access to, the internet and social media, a problem that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The children who are victims of these crimes are helpless and are often hidden, even from their parents and caregivers. It is imperative that we act with urgency to address their safety and wellbeing," said Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America. "CWLA is pleased to endorse Senator Ron Wyden’s efforts through the Invest in Child Safety Act to address this problem by strengthening enforcement mechanisms, pushing to have the federal government live up to requirements enacted several years ago, and by providing greater support to the children and their families who are victims.”
The text of the bill is here.
A one-page summary is here.
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