“From infancy until I was 15, I was trafficked and used in child sexual abuse material (also known as child pornography) which continues to be shared widely across the internet. I spend hours every day searching for my own content, reporting thousands of accounts and posts sharing CSAM . . . Each time one account gets taken down, five more take its place. It’s like a hydra, a monster that I can never defeat.
“I’m not strong enough to take it down myself. It’s costing me my wellbeing, safety and maybe even my life. I’m tired. I shouldn’t find photos of myself as a child being raped when I’m just scrolling through my feed. I shouldn’t have to go looking for images of my own abuse. This isn’t my job.”
This is a CSAM survivor describing the anguish of knowing—and seeing—crime scene images of her rape circulating online endlessly.
This survivor is one of millions.
In 2008, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received 600,000+ reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM, aka child pornography). In 2022, NCMEC received over 31,000,000—31 MILLION—reports of CSAM. And most of those reports include multiple images or, most often now, videos.
Last Congress, child protection and anti-trafficking advocates rallied to support legislation addressing the horrendous increase of child sexual abuse online. NOT ONE significant bill confronting this criminal activity passed, despite broad bipartisan support from advocates and subject matter experts across the nation.
While Congress sits on these bills, reports of abuse to the CyberTipline increase each year!
NCOSE and hundreds of advocates, survivor leaders, and subject matter experts are calling on the 118th Congress to make this the Child Protection Congress by prioritizing and passing key, bipartisan legislation to address child sexual abuse material and online child sexual exploitation. Following are our priorities:
EARN IT Act: Civil and Criminal Liability!
In May 2023, NCOSE announced its annual Dirty Dozen List, an annual campaign spotlighting twelve mainstream entities that facilitate, enable, and profit from sexual abuse and exploitation. Due to judicial interpretations of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), these platforms are considered immune from accountability for illegal content, even when the content is reported and the platform fails to take it down.
The EARN IT Act (S. 1207 / H.R. 2732), a bipartisan bill supported by over 230 organizations, from every state, is a surgical CDA 230 reform to give victims of CSAM a path to justice and hold platforms accountable if they knowingly allow the distribution of child sexual abuse material.
Kids Online Safety Act: Safeguards and Transparency
In 2021, the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security convened five hearings on “Protecting Kids Online” to hear from Big Tech, subject matter experts, and lived-experience experts about the increasing harms youth face online.
The hearings revealed how dangerous algorithms, lack of content moderation, and weak (or nonexistent) safety policies leave children vulnerable to predators and dangerous practices online.
The Kids Online Safety Act (S. 1409) emerged as a comprehensive solution with three main approaches:
- Requiring platforms to provide parents and kids with safeguards and tools
- Creating a duty of care for platforms to prevent and mitigate specific harms to minors
- Establishing transparency by allowing academic and public interest organizations access to data to research the online harms kids face and platforms’ response
REPORT Act: Modernize NCMEC Reporting
The CyberTipline, managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), is the nation’s clearinghouse for reporting online child sexual exploitation, including child sexual abuse material, child sex trafficking, sextortion, and enticement.
Due to lack of incentives, online platforms report minimal information currently required by law, making it difficult for law enforcement to effectively investigate and hold individuals accountable.
The REPORT Act (S. 474) makes significant CyberTipline improvements by:
- Requiring platforms to report child sex trafficking and enticement, two underreported crimes
- Increasing penalties for failure to report exploitive content
- Extending the retention period required of platforms to hold CSAM from 90 days to 1 year to facilitate law enforcement investigations
Project Safe Childhood: Strengthen Legal Response to Child Exploitation
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood to respond to the growing criminal activity of child sexual exploitation, including training law enforcement to investigate, arrest, and prosecute predators.
The Project Safe Childhood Act (S. 1170 / H.R. 2661) strengthens law enforcement’s response to online child exploitation through improved coordination with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, updated training for identifying and rescuing children, and closing the gap on livestream loopholes.
STOP CSAM Act: Expand Victims’ Rights and Protections
The virtual exploitation of children evolves and shifts with advances and changes in technology. Current laws lack the protections and safeguards to protect victims from revictimization and further trauma.
The STOP CSAM Act (S. 1199) enhances protections for victims of CSAM by strengthening safeguards for child victims and witnesses in federal court. It establishes accountability for reporting in the tech industry, works to expand civil remedies for victims of online sexual exploitation, and outlines CSAM removal procedures for Big Tech.
Distinctly, the bill requires platforms to remove related exploitive visual depictions (REVD), images of victims posted alongside original abuse recordings, to protect victims’ privacy.
Big Tech has had years to build safeguards for children, but lack of incentive and greed has led this powerful sector to flagrantly ignore child protection.
Congress: Stand up for children! Make this the Child Protection Congress by passing these five critical online child protection bills!