June 19, 2019

South Carolina Governor McMaster signs historic "Children's Internet Safety Governor's Pledge"

Pledge Ensures Commitment to Aggressive Enforcement of Existing State Laws and Advancement of Public Policies Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation 

Photo provided by S.C. Governor’s Office

Great Falls, Va. -- The office of Governor Henry McMaster (S.C.) and Enough Is Enough® (EIE), a national non-profit organization dedicated to making the Internet safer for children and families, today announced the Governor’s signing of the first ever “Children’s Internet Safety Governor’s Pledge,” making the issue of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital world a top priority in the state of South Carolina. The signing took place following a press conference earlier this morning at the South Carolina State House rotunda, witnessed by First Lady Peggy McMaster, Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette, EIE President Donna Rice Hughes, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, members of the General Assembly, and representatives from Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office. 

Video of the event can be found here.

“Internet safety is one of our biggest concerns when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our children. Despite years of efforts, the increasing use of the Internet has enabled offenders to reach and abuse children online, and in many cases avoid detection,” said McMaster. He continued, “We must redouble our efforts to protect our young people and vulnerable adults.”

The Pledge commitments will be circulated by McMaster to the governors of all fifty states and U.S. territories, and will call on governors to: 

(1) ensure the aggressive enforcement of existing state laws to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online, including the state obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws, (2) advance public policies preventing the sexual exploitation of its most vulnerable citizens, and (3) examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth and the interconnection of sex trafficking, child pornography and Internet crimes against children. 

 “I am encouraged that South Carolina, my home state, will become the model state under the inspired leadership of Governor McMaster to bring all the stakeholders together to unite against the scourges that are corroding childhood, destroying families and coarsening our culture,” said Hughes. “Governor McMaster’s steadfast leadership and dedication to issues that threaten the dignity of children on the ever-evolving Internet is critical, as is that of First Lady Peggy McMaster, a friend and ally in this fight. We’re optimistic governors from across the nation will follow their lead to protect and defend child safety online. Preventing the sexual exploitation of youth online requires a multi-faceted holistic strategy with a shared responsibility between the public, industry, and government. We must not let one more day pass at the expense of the innocence and dignity of our children without tackling the rampant exploitation and dangers children face on the Internet head on," continued Hughes.

The Governor’s Pledge is modeled after the historic bipartisan “Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge,” authored by EIE and signed by candidate Donald Trump and endorsed by candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. 

Since the signing of the Presidential Pledge, President Trump’s administration has fulfilled Pledge promises (1) though the passage of the “Allow States And Victims To Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” (FOSTA), which provided invaluable tools to fight the scourge of sex trafficking to hold websites like backpage.com accountable for knowingly selling advertisements that sell women and children for sex and prostitution, and (2) through the appointment of Attorney General William P. Barr, who has since named human trafficking as one of the highest priorities in his department and has shared his commitment to safeguard American’s from online predators and Internet dangers.

The Governor’s Pledge states the need to examine and research the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth and the interconnection of sex trafficking, child pornography, obscene pornography and Internet crimes against children. Thirteen states have adopted resolutions to declare pornography a public health crisis since 2016. 

Any child with open Internet access can view, either intentionally or accidentally, sexually exploitive material, ranging from adult pornography, prosecutable obscenity including graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, excretory functions, bestiality, and violence and child pornography. Research shows kids under the age of 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption of minor consumers, and account for 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites, which hosts deviant and violent content. According to the CDC, youth who look at violent X-rated material are 6 times more likely to report forcing sex online or in-person. 

Compounding the issues of child sexual exploitation, the U.S. is 2nd in the world in hosting child porn websites and is a top consumer and producer of this content globally. The U.S. is also the number one producer, distributor and exporter of hard-core Internet pornography, prosecutable under federal and state obscenity laws, which fuels child sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual violence against women, sex trafficking, child pornography and sexual predation.

“This is a unifying issue, a bi-partisan issue, one in which we can check other differences at the door for the sake of our children,” continued Hughes. “ I believe that the commitments made here today will shine a much needed light on the dangers that threaten our children in the digital world, and present an unprecedented opportunity to collectively defend child dignity in the great state of South Carolina, and ultimately as a nation once and for all.”