Sens. Ossoff, Blackburn launch bipartisan effort to strengthen nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children, help law enforcement prosecute crimes
Bipartisan bill would also toughen penalties on websites and social media companies that fail to report crimes against children
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is introducing a bipartisan bill to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.
In their latest work as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Sens. Ossoff and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today introduced the bipartisan REPORT Act to combat the rise in child sexual abuse material online.
The bipartisan bill would strengthen the National Tipline run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to report online exploitation and would preserve evidence for a longer period, giving law enforcement more time to investigate and prosecute crimes. According to NCMEC, the tipline received over 32 million reports last year.
The bill would require websites and social media platforms to report crimes involving Federal trafficking and enticement of children, which they are not currently required to do. The legislation would also increase fines for companies that knowingly and willfully fail to report child sex abuse material on their site.
“We must work relentlessly to end the sexual abuse of children. That’s why I’m helping bring Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen child protection laws,” Sen. Ossoff said. “This bipartisan legislation with Senator Blackburn will help law enforcement crack down on abusers and traffickers who target children.”
“Children are increasingly living their lives behind screens, and the jarring reality is that this leaves more innocent kids at risk of online exploitation. We must ensure the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and law enforcement are equipped to adequately respond. This legislation takes much-needed steps to modernize anti-trafficking efforts so that perpetrators may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Sen. Blackburn.
Sen. Ossoff and Blackburn’s bipartisan bill would instill new measures to help address the evolving challenges around identifying online child sexual exploitation, including by:
- Requiring websites and social media platforms to report imminent child sexual abuse violations — not just violations that have already occurred
- Requiring websites and social media platforms to report violations of crimes involving federal trafficking (e.g., selling ads for children) and enticement
- Increasing the fine (up to $850,000) for websites and social media platforms that knowingly and willfully fail to report child sexual abuse material
- Increasing the time that websites and social media platforms are required to preserve evidence for reports of online child exploitation that they submit to the CyberTipline, giving law enforcement more time to investigate and prosecute.
“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is proud to support the Revising Existing Procedures on Reporting via Technology (REPORT) Act and thanks Senator Blackburn and Senator Ossoff for their leadership in introducing this critically needed legislation. The volume of online child sexual exploitation continues to rise exponentially, and last year NCMEC’s CyberTipline received over 32 million reports containing more than 88 million images/videos and other content concerning child sexual exploitation,” said Michelle DeLaune, President & CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). “The REPORT Act will modernize how CyberTipline data is handled by NCMEC and investigated by law enforcement; enable minors to report sexually exploitative content in which they are depicted to NCMEC; modernize efforts to identify child victims and maintain CyberTipline reports; and facilitate law enforcement investigations by extending retention time for information reported to the CyberTipline from 90 days to one year. NCMEC is proud to support the REPORT Act, and we look forward to continuing our work with Senator Blackburn and Senator Ossoff to see this timely legislation become law.”
“The REPORT Act would greatly aid in the fight against child sexual abuse by making it mandatory for companies to report imminent crimes involving child sexual abuse to NCMEC, and increase penalties for failing to report such material. The Act would also greatly modernize the ability of NCMEC to investigate CSAM. Our country needs every tool available to confront child sexual abuse,” said Benjamin Bull, General Counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“The REPORT Act ensures online platforms will preserve vital evidence necessary to combat the exploitation of children online and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Lori L. Cohen, CEO of ECPAT-USA.
“When it comes to protecting our children online, The REPORT Act is common sense in action. Not only does it strengthen existing CSAM reporting procedures, it also places critical onus on Big Tech to report CSAM or face the rightful consequences,” said Jason Frost, LL.M., Co-Founder and President of Wired Human in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sen. Ossoff has heard from child welfare experts and local leaders across the state about this growing concern, who have noted that online child sexual abuse continues to run rampant but remain underreported in Georgia.
In July of 2022, FBI Atlanta reported that Georgia has seen an increase in sextortion cases where adults are posing as young girls online to solicit sexual images from minors. These online predators are then extorting their victims for money.
Sen. Ossoff continues working to protect Georgia’s children. Last week, Sen. Ossoff and Sen. Blackburn launched a bipartisan inquiry into the alleged abuse and neglect of children in Georgia’s foster care system.
Last year, Sen. Ossoff and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen Federal protections against the sexual abuse of children. The bill passed the Senate last Congress, and NCMEC recently urged lawmakers to pass it into law this year.
Click here to read the bipartisan Revising Existing Procedures on Reporting via Technology (REPORT) Act.