Bill extends evidence preservation time in online child exploitation cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This afternoon, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tech Task Force, and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the Eliminate Network Distribution of Child Exploitation Act to lengthen evidence preservation time in online child exploitation cases and to assist 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.

“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,” said Senator Blackburn. “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.”

“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,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “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. We need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prosecute predators and keep them from threatening our children.”

Doubling the evidence retention period gives law enforcement more time 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.

Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Lucy Kay McBath (D-Ga.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Penn.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) are leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.“We are pleased to support Senator Blackburn and Senator Cortez Masto’s legislation to help enable more efficient and effective review of CyberTipline reports by extending the amount of time an electronic service provider is required to preserve material relating to a CyberTipline report from 90 days to 180 days,” said John Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “I commend them for the introduction of this bill and for their dedication to the safety of our nation’s children.”

“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,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “This legislation will preserve potential evidence for longer periods of time, increasing the chance of law enforcement to identify and stop these vile criminals.”

BACKGROUND

In 2018, tech companies reported over 45 million photos and videos of children being sexually abused. That number is more than double that of 2017. The number surpassed 1 million for the first time in 2014. In the last 5 years, that number has increased 45 times. The victims of these crimes, law enforcement, and tech companies share strong interests in stopping the proliferation of these images online. This legislation arms law enforcement with more tools, protects victims from further abuse, and makes platforms more secure for the public.

Issues