This Congress hasn’t accomplished all that much, so you’d think they’d be eager to pass a no-brainer such as bipartisan legislation to protect kids from online predators. You’d be wrong.
Last December, the House passed the Securing Adolescents from Exploitation Online Act by a resounding margin of 409-2. The bipartisan bill expands reporting requirements for child sex exploitation and child pornography, requires providers to disclose the identity of anyone who appears to have violated child pornography laws, directs the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to report child pornography violations to law enforcement, and grants service providers and NCMEC limited immunity from civil and criminal liability for reporting information.
When the bill passed by such a huge margin, it seemed that Senate action was sure to follow soon. But one thing went wrong: John McCain won the Republican presidential nomination. And since he was the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, the measure was suddenly dead. It didn’t even matter that McCain’s bill was cosponsored by HIllary Clinton and Chuck Schumer; it could not pass.Fortunately, another good bill was also introduced, addressing some of the same issues. That bill — S. 1738 — creates a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, as well as a National Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, and a National Internet Crimes Against Children Data System. It simplifies prosecution of child pornography cases, and increases funding for this effort. The bill is sponsored by Joe Biden. One of the cosponsors is Barack Obama. And wouldn’t you know it — Harry Reid is planning to hold a vote on this bill.
Senator Tom Coburn tried to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He introduced a third bill that essentially combines the other two. Senate Democrats have blocked the bill from coming to a vote — twice. It seems that only Senator Biden’s bill will see action before the election.
And what about the reforms in the McCain/Schumer/Clinton bill — to find and identify those who spread child pornography? Maybe they’ll get enacted somewhere down the line — once Senator McCain can’t take advantage of his bipartisan work on the issue.
A sidenote: Oprah Winfrey is a party to this — although it’s unclear whether she’s been duped. She devoted her show on Monday to pushing for action on the Biden bill. Perhaps once she gets up to speed on the issue, she won’t push so aggressively for a bill that seems to put politics over children’s safety.