Protecting Children from Online Predators; Requiring Internet Providers to Retain User Data Is Key to Prosecution

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

Protecting Children from Online Predators; Requiring Internet Providers to Retain User Data Is Key to Prosecution


Byline: Rep. Lamar Smith and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Just a few years ago, parents could rely on the four walls of their homes to keep their children safe. But in an age in which social networking sites have replaced the playground, parents face the new challenge of keeping their children safe from criminals who operate online.

While the Internet has proved to be of great value in many aspects of our lives, it has also become a vehicle for sex predators and pedophiles to distribute child pornography images and encourage others to engage in child pornography.

Child pornography may be the fastest-growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150 percent per year. The Justice Department estimates that there are now more than 1 million pornographic images of children on the Internet. The department also estimates that one-third of the world's pedo-philes involved in organized child porno- graphy rings live in the United States.

We must do more to keep our children safe from online sexual exploitation. That's why we have co-sponsored H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act. H.R. 1981 enables law enforcement officials to successfully locate and prosecute those who want to hurt our children.

Often, the only way to identify a pedophile who operates a website or exchanges child pornography images with other pedophiles is by an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Law enforcement officials must obtain a subpoena and then request from the Internet Service Provider the name and address of the user of the IP address. Unfortunately, Internet Service Providers regularly purge these records, making it difficult, if not impossible, for investigators to apprehend child pornographers on the Internet.

H.R. 1981 directs Internet Service Providers to retain IP addresses longer in order to assist federal law enforcement officials with child pornography and other Internet investigations.

This narrow provision is specifically for the IP addresses the providers assign to their customers. It does not require the retention of any content, so the bill does not threaten any legitimate privacy interests of Internet users.

H.R. 1981 requires providers to retain these records for 12 months.

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Protecting Children from Online Predators; Requiring Internet Providers to Retain User Data Is Key to Prosecution
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