Congress re-enacts laws to combat online sexual abuse of children


AAs lawmakers monitor social media apps like TikTok over data privacy concerns, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced new legislation that would hold the tech giant accountable for having child sexual abuse material — content that depicts sex with minors — on its platforms.

The Interactive Technologies Offensive and Horrible Ignorance Act, or the IT Discovery Act, introduced Thursday would eliminate existing legal immunity for companies that “knowingly facilitate or profit” from sexually explicit images of children.

“Tech companies have the technology to detect, remove and stop the distribution of child sexual exploitation material. However, there is no incentive to do so because there are no consequences for their inaction,” said Erin Earp, RAINN’s acting vice president of public policy, in a press release.

The bill also makes it easier to trace the origin of exposed content and updates federal laws to use the term child sexual abuse material instead of child pornography.

This is the third time the bill has been introduced in the last three years, as previous efforts failed due to concerns that it would limit free speech online, as Bill 230 targets the law, which says online sites are not responsible for the third. – the content of the party is posted on its website. (The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Section 230 in February, which appear to be aimed at preserving the legal shield.)

“Unfortunately, the role of the internet/social media in increasing the amount of (child sexual abuse material) online is profit-oriented,” said John-Michael Lander, founder of Voices for the Voiceless, which educates survivors on how to help and identify. carers. “Many sites initially set terms and conditions and guidelines to protect children, but these guidelines are easy to circumvent, making it difficult to manage the total number of daily downloads.”

Despite disagreements about how to protect minors to ensure that people are not subject to rules that violate their privacy online, there are still concerns about the scale of offensive content online. In 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline received more than 32 million reports of child sexual abuse.

A coalition of parents has called for tougher accountability on tech and social media companies like Facebook, which have come under fire after being shown to knowingly harm minors, especially teenage girls who say they feel bad after using Instagram.

Experts tell TIME that it’s becoming easier to target minors online because predators can easily connect with children. Lander advises educators to be proactive and talk to children about the dangers of online chat rooms, and warns parents to actively monitor their child’s social media presence.

According to a recent Crime Prevention survey, 82% of out-of-home parents are still asking technology and social media companies to do more to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation. sexual violence RAINN and YouGov. Survey respondents cited enhanced security measures as a solution, including removing inappropriate content within 24 hours of reporting it and reporting such content to law enforcement within one day.

The distribution of child sexual abuse material has a chilling effect on survivors, with research from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showing that 67% of survivors say the images have a different effect on them than physical abuse because of the internet’s permanence.

As lawmakers search for solutions, Cindy Etler, a certified teen life coach who regularly works with teenage girls who are victims of child sexual abuse, says the consequences are devastating. . “Girls are often suicidal, because if the water leaks and everyone knows about it, how can you cope? How will you recover?’ Ettler said. “If they don’t have access to someone who can’t judge them … (then they) resort to extreme behavior to try to escape the reality of what happened to them.”

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