VIDEO: Blackburn: New Law Takes Big Step Forward In Fight To End Online Child Exploitation

May 14, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the Senate floor last week, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) discussed how her bipartisan REPORT Act, which was recently signed into law, helps combat child exploitation.

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Remarks as prepared:

This week, we are taking a big step forward in the fight to end online child exploitation. The bipartisan REPORT Act—which I led alongside Senator Ossoff—was signed into law.

Now, law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) will have the resources they need to better protect vulnerable children and track down predators. This legislation is urgently needed.

In America, a child is bought or sold for sexual exploitation every two minutes. This abuse increasingly happens online, where predators distribute child sexual abuse material, recruit minors into sex trafficking rings, and extort children into sharing explicit images of themselves. Just last year, NCMEC received 36.2 million reports of online child sexual exploitation—a 23 percent increase from 2021.

NCMEC—whose CyberTipline serves as the country’s centralized reporting system for online child abuse—does incredible work to track these crimes and report them to law enforcement. But, tragically, so many more acts of online sexual abuse against children go unreported.

Although criminal law requires electronic service providers to report any child sex abuse material on their sites, online platforms—including Big Tech sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram—have no obligation to report content involving the sex trafficking or grooming of children or enticement crimes. Most online platforms choose not to report this abhorrent material to law enforcement. And even when they do report the content, electronic service providers often omit necessary information to identify victims and track down abusers.

We’ve also heard from victims, their families, and law enforcement about the need to modernize laws around reporting online sexual abuse. For example, children and their parents risk legal liability for transferring evidence of online sexual abuse they have experienced when submitting reports to the CyberTipline.

The REPORT Act addresses these issues and more to ensure that we are defending children against some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Now, electronic service providers will be legally required to report child trafficking and enticement. To ensure compliance, the REPORT Act raises the fine for first violations from $150,000 up to as much as $850,000, and subsequent violations from $300,000 up to $1 million.

At the same time, the legislation enables victims to report evidence of online exploitation to the authorities, and allows for the secure cloud storage and safe transfer of reports from NCMEC to law enforcement. It also increases the retention period for CyberTipline reports from 90 days to a year—meaning law enforcement will have more time to track down and prosecute criminals.

Altogether, these measures will do so much to protect the most vulnerable among us from online exploitation and put an end to this horrific abuse.