BIDEN Bill to Protect Children from Internet Predators Becomes Law
U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Protect Our Children Act (S.1738), legislation designed to address the growing problem of online child exploitation, has been signed into law. The bipartisan bill creates a strong nationwide network of highly trained law enforcement experts to track down these offenders and put them behind bars. On September 15, Oprah Winfrey, a long-time advocate for protecting children, called on her viewers to urge their Senators to support this bill to protect children from sexual predators. Last month, the Senate passed Sen. Biden's bill with 60 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
"At the same time when the Internet has given children access to the world - it has also given a dangerous world access to our kids," said Sen. Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. "Protecting them requires constant vigilance - in our neighborhoods, in our homes and on-line. Finally we have a law that will give law enforcement the funds and the tools to pull the plug on Internet predators."
At Senate and House hearings to explore the magnitude of online child exploitation in this country, the Department of Justice and the FBI testified that child exploitation is growing rapidly. New investigative techniques have allowed law enforcement to identify over 500,000 unique computers trafficking child pornography over the Internet. Due to the lack of resources at the Federal, state and local level, however, law enforcement can only investigate less than 2 percent of these cases.
"Cyber crimes may be virtual, but the impact on a child's life is real," added Sen. Biden. "This law is our nation's toughest offensive against child exploitation - it will improve our national strategy to fight online child exploitation; put predators in jail; and most importantly, rescue and protect thousands of children."
Sen. Biden's bill requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, thus ensuring that we are taking a comprehensive, forward-looking approach to address this growing problem. The bill builds upon the critical Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, dedicating at least one cyber unit in each state dedicated to these cases. It also updates Internet Service Providers' obligations to report any evidence of child exploitation discovered on their network to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Protect Our Children Act of 2008 authorizes $320.5 million over the next five years for:
A National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: In order to help develop a cohesive national effort to fight child exploitation on the Internet, Sen. Biden's bill requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement a national strategy to help garner our nation's collective resources to combat this growing problem.
An ICAC Grant Program: The Attorney General is now required to establish a formula grant program for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, funded at $60 million per year for the next five years. This will ensure that local agencies have the additional resources necessary to create robust cyber units with highly trained investigators.
Increased Forensic Capacity: The bill provides $2 million per year to establish increased forensic capacity for child exploitation cases at the Regional Computer Forensic Labs (RCFL).
Enhanced Reporting Requirements: Sen. Biden's bill also updates and increases the legal responsibilities of Internet Service Providers upon discovery of evidence of child exploitation on their networks.
"This legislation is the truest form of child abuse prevention. We will be able to count the children rescued and the predators stopped," said Grier Weeks, Executive Director of the National Association to Protect Children. "When it comes to sexual predators, we have a massive surplus of rhetoric and a huge deficit of resources to do anything about them. Sen. Biden just changed all that."
The Protect Our Children Act has strong support from a wide cross-section of children's advocacy, law enforcement and community organizations. The International Union of Police Associations, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs' Association, the Surviving Parents Coalition, PROTECT, AFL-CIO and GoDaddy.com, among others, have been instrumental partners in advocating for this legislation.