Flawed Bill to Protect Children from Child Pornography Passes From Judiciary Committee: Objections & Solutions

On July 28, the House Judiciary Committee today passed a bill to help investigators track down dangerous pedophiles and protect children from sexual exploitation. The bill passed by a vote of 19-10. The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 (H.R. 1981) directs Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain subscriber information for 12 months in order to assist federal law enforcement in online child pornography and child exploitation investigations. This is similar to existing federal law that requires telephone companies to retain caller information for up to 18 months.

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. H.R. 1981 was sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

During a press conference, Chairman Smith commented,

“Child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150% per year. These disturbing images litter the Internet and pedophiles can purchase, view or exchange this material with virtual anonymity.

“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 ISPs to identify users and distributers of online child pornography.

“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. 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.

“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.”

H.R. 1981 is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Sheriff’s Association, the Major County Sheriff’s Association, the International Union of Police Associations and the Fraternal Order of Police.

The ACLU and other organizations oppose section 4 of the bills because it will require Internet service providers to maintain records of all users and their communication for 12 months. This requirement is a threat to privacy of millions and an additional burden on Internet businesses.

One way around this problem would be for Internet companies in conjunction with government to develop software to identify, track, and store of those whose activities are suspect. This would allow authorities to investigate only suspected law-breaker while protecting the privacy of a majority of citizens using online services.

We all know, the government does this anyway. So why push an unlawful egalatarianism on the majority in the guise of protecting children? One reason could be legislatures have no common sense. Another might be they want to invade the privacy of whomsoever they want whenever they want.

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