House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) today introduced legislation to help investigators track down dangerous pedophiles and protect children from sexual exploitation.
The "Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" (H.R. 1981) directs Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain subscriber information for up to 18 months in order to assist federal law enforcement in online child pornography and child exploitation investigations. H.R. 1981 also makes it a federal crime to financially facilitate the sale, distribution and purchase of child pornography. The bill increases the maximum penalty for certain child pornography offenses.
Chairman Smith: "Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, increasing an average of 150% per year. This is partly because investigators do not have adequate tools to track down dangerous pedophiles that prey on the most innocent in our society.
"Investigators need the assistance of Internet Service Providers to identify users and distributers of online child pornography. This bill requires ISPs to retain subscriber records, similar to records retained by telephone companies, to aid law enforcement officials in their fight against child sexual exploitation.
"When investigators develop leads that might result in saving a child or apprehending a pedophile, their efforts should not be frustrated because vital records were destroyed simply because there was no requirement to retain them. Every piece of prematurely discarded information could be the footprint of a child predator. This bill ensures that the online footprints of predators are not erased."
Rep. Wasserman Schultz: "I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Chairman Lamar Smith, who shares my dedication to the safety of our nation's children.
"Too many times, law enforcement hits a dead end when tracking a child pornographer because the digital fingerprints linking them to the crime have been erased. When this happens, it all too often means that a child will continue to be violated by an adult. This bill will ensure that officers of the law have the information they need to identify and apprehend those who abuse and violate children.
"We must make it clear that no longer will these predators be allowed to hide behind a computer terminal and continue to violate children, whether through uploading pictures or broadcasting real-time assault.
"I was pleased to learn that many ISPs already retain these records solely for law enforcement use in these cases, and many children's lives have been saved because of it. This bill will extend what has already been proven to work to all ISPs, and will ensure that no child will continue to be violated because the perpetrator's digital fingerprints were erased."