December 10, 2007

Congressional Action on Internet Safety

Congressional Update

December 10, 2007

Congress is sending a clear message: Internet safety matters. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a number of Internet safety measures under suspension--a move used often to move non-controversial legislation expeditiously, and this week, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will take up three pieces of legislation in their Executive Business Meeting. For those who have followed Internet safety legislation over the years--for the most part--this new crop of legislation marks significant progress for Internet safety.

Public Awareness & Education
Bills introduced in both chambers and passed in the House support public awareness and education campaigns that reflect our goals at Enough Is Enough® (EIE) by surveying, utilizing and funding programs to educate and empower parents to protect their children online. The "Safeguarding America's Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act" (SAFER Net Act) and the "Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act" both would provide substantial funding for education campaigns and programs to protect children and educate adults, educators and youth on Internet safety issues.

EIE also joined a number of advocates for Internet safety to express strong support for S. 2344, the Internet Safety Education Act, and opposition to similar legislation, H.R. 4134. S. 2344 would authorize $50 million for a competitive grant program open to all eligible organizations to carry out Internet safety education programs spanning fiscal years 2008 through 2012.

Although H.R. 4134 would also authorize $50 million spanning fiscal years 2008 through 2012, $25 million would be dedicated funding for one Internet safety organization. In the ever-changing world of technology and youth online safety, the best way for Congress to protect children online is to support collaborative, comprehensive and diversified approaches to online safety education. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will be looking at S. 2344 in its Executive Business Meeting this Thursday, December 13.

Funding Enforcement
The "Protect our Children Act of 2007" was also passed by the House in November and would increase funding for programs targeting child pornography and child sexual exploitation in the FBI, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, U.S. Postal Service and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement--a critical step forward as Congress begins to recognize the need to battle these threats on multiple fronts.

Industry Implications
Before Thanksgiving recess, the House stripped essential language from the KIDS ("Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sex Offenders") Act of 2007, which would place electronic identifying information belonging to a convicted felon, including e-mail and instant message addresses, into the National Sex Offender Registry and allow social-networking sites to cross-check user information against the registry. The Senate version of the legislation, introduced by Senators Schumer and McCain maintains language requiring sex offenders to register their information and allowing law enforcement to fine or imprison any offender who fails to register their correct information. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be taking this legislation up this week.

The House also voted on the SAFE ("Securing Adolescents From Exploitation") Online Act of 2007" which expands the reporting duties of Internet service providers (ISPs) with respect to violations of child sexual exploitation and pornography laws. ISPs would have to inform the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) of the Internet identity and geographic location of suspected sex offenders and the time child pornography was downloaded. They would also have to preserve child pornography images for investigations and prosecutions. ISPs that fail to report incidents of child pornography would be subject to fines of $150,000 per image per day, up from the current rate, for subsequent cases.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The "Protect Our Children First Act of 2007" has also been placed on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Executive Calendar for this Thursday, and may undergo significant markup in Committee. This bill would authorize $20 million of continued funding for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's programs.

A second bill, the "Protecting Our Children Comes First Act of 2007", H.R. 2517, doubles to $40 million a year through 2013 the amount of federal funds available to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which works in partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI and other federal agencies. Actual money for the center still has to be determined in annual spending bills.

Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act: S. 1965

Safer Net Act: H.R. 3461

Internet Safety Education Act: S. 2344

Protect Our Children Act of 2007: H.R. 3845

KIDS Act of 2007: S. 431

SAFE Online Act of 2007: H.R. 3791

Protect Our Children First Act of 2007: S. 1829

Protecting Our Children Comes First Act of 2007: H.R. 2517