Senator Wyden And Others Introduce Bill Calling The DOJ's Bluff Regarding Its Attempt To Destroy Section 230 & Encryption

from the should-be-called-the-do-your-job-bill dept

One of the key points we’ve been making concerning Attorney General William Barr and his DOJ’s eager support for the terrible EARN-IT Act, is that much of it really seems to be to cover up the DOJ’s own failings in fighting child porn and child exploitation. The premise behind the EARN IT Act is that there’s a lot of child exploitation/child abuse material found on social media… and that social media companies should do more to block that content. Of course, if you step back and think about it, you’d quickly realize that this is a form of sweeping the problem under the rug. Rather than actually tracking down and arresting those exploiting and abusing children, it’s demanding private companies just hide the evidence of those horrific acts.

And why might the DOJ and others be so supportive of sweeping evidence under the rug and hiding it? Perhaps because the DOJ and Congress have literally failed to live up to their mandates under existing laws to actually fight child exploitation. Barr’s DOJ has been required under law to produce reports showing data about internet crimes against children, and come up with goals to fight those crimes. It has produced only two out of the six reports that were mandated over a decade ago. At the same time, Congress has only allocated a very small budget to state and local law enforcement for fighting internet child abuse. While the laws Congress passed say that Congress should give $60 million to local law enforcement, it has actually allocated only about half of that. Oh, and Homeland Security took nearly half of its “cybercrimes” budget and diverted it to immigration enforcement, rather than fighting internet crimes such as child exploitation.

So… maybe we should recognize that the problem isn’t social media platforms, but the fact that Congress and law enforcement — from local and state up to the DOJ — have literally failed to do their job.

At least some elected officials have decided to call the DOJ’s bluff on why we need the EARN IT Act. Led by Senator Ron Wyden (of course), Senators Kirsten Gillbrand, Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown and Rep. Anna Eshoo have introduced a new bill to actually fight child sex abuse online. Called the Invest in Child Safety Act, it would basically make law enforcement do its job regarding this stuff.

The Invest in Child Safety Act would direct $5 billion in mandatory funding to investigate and target the pedophiles and abusers who create and share child sexual abuse material online. And it would create a new White House office to coordinate efforts across federal agencies, after DOJ refused to comply with a 2008 law requiring coordination and reporting of those efforts. It also directs substantial new funding for community-based efforts to prevent children from becoming victims in the first place.

Basically, the bill would do a bunch of things to make sure that law enforcement is actually dealing with the very real problem of child exploitation, rather than demanding that internet companies (1) sweep evidence under the rug, and (2) break encryption:

  • Quadruple the number of prosecutors and agents in DOJ?s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section from 30 FTEs to 120 FTEs;
  • Add 100 new agents and investigators for the Federal Bureau of Investigation?s Innocent Images National Initiative, Crimes Against Children Unit, Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, and Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces;
  • Fund 65 new NCMEC analysts, engineers, and mental health counselors, as well as a major upgrade to NCMEC?s technology platform to enable the organization to more effectively evaluate and process CSAM reports from tech companies;
  • Double funding for the state Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces;
  • Double funding for the National Criminal Justice Training Center, to administer crucial Internet Crimes Against Children and Missing and Exploited Children training programs;
  • Increase funding for evidence-based programs, local governments and non-federal entities to detect, prevent and support victims of child sexual abuse, including school-based mental health services and prevention programs like the Children?s Advocacy Centers and the HHS? Street Outreach Program;
  • Require tech companies to increase the time that they hold evidence of CSAM, in a secure database, to enable law enforcement agencies to prosecute older cases;
  • Establish an Office to Enforce and Protect Against Child Sexual Exploitation, within the Executive Office of the President, to direct and streamline the federal government?s efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute the scourge of child exploitation;
  • Require the Office to develop an enforcement and protection strategy, in coordination with HHS and GAO; and
  • Require the Office to submit annual monitoring reports, subject to mandatory Congressional testimony to ensure timely execution.

While I always have concerns about law enforcement mission creep and misguided targeting of law enforcement efforts, hopefully everyone can agree that child exploitation does remain a very real problem, and one that law enforcement should be investigating and going after those who are actually exploiting and abusing children. This bill would make that possible, rather than the alternative approach of just blaming the internet companies for law enforcement’s failure to take any of this seriously.

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Comments on “Senator Wyden And Others Introduce Bill Calling The DOJ's Bluff Regarding Its Attempt To Destroy Section 230 & Encryption”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Is it enough?

" It has produced only two out of the six reports that were mandated over a decade ago."

What in this bill will change the DoJ’s behavior. More mandates don’t cut the mustard. They should include something significant that will make Law Enforcement sit up and take notice as well as face both actual personal and actual agency consequences that don’t need taxpayer funding.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
arp2 (profile) says:

Re: Is it enough?

Exactly: people pretend that the current government still functions under rule of law. Barr currently operates with impunity and no amount of public shaming will do much good. However, if you have an automatic cut in DOJs budget if they don’t produce the required materials, give updates, etc. perhaps that will encourage them to do more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is it enough?

"people pretend that the current government still functions under rule of law"

Did the us law ever function as rule of law as opposed to rule of man for all of its citizens? It seems that rule of law is applied with vigor when addressing the general public while rule of man applies for the well connected.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Is it enough?

They should include something significant that will make Law Enforcement sit up and take notice as well as face both actual personal and actual agency consequences that don’t need taxpayer funding.
That’s what I thought when reading this.

What the bill should do is introduce criminal penalties for the heads of the involved agencies for not complying with the reporting requirements – at least!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

The premise behind the EARN IT Act is that there’s a lot of child exploitation/child abuse material found on social media… and that social media companies should do more to block that content.

The premise behind that, presumably, is that the absence of such material will stop abuse. It seems about as likely as the idea that violent video games and films cause real-life violence.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It seems about as likely as the idea that violent video games and films cause real-life violence."

Not quite. It’s the premise that stopping the newscast of a murder will prevent the murder from happening.
And, of course, prevent people from finding out about it.

CP is a toxic issue from the get-go but the fact that more focus is placed on preventing anyone from seeing the evidence that it happens rather than the actually preventing the abuse is inex-fscking-scusable.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Woah, hard pass, that would require US to do work.'

I foresee a whole lot of tantrum throwing and objections thrown at this bill as it would require the agencies that are actually tasked to do something about child abuse/exploitation to actually do some gorram work, and as they have made very clear that just isn’t of interest for them.

Add in that it would require the government to spend money on the problem, rather than just dumping it on someone else that can be thrown under the bus should they not ‘do enough’ and I expect that all those ‘think of the children!’ people who’ve been cheering on EARN IT will all of a sudden be vehemently against a bill specifically aimed at the problem they claim they are extremely concerned about, nicely highlighting their actual goals.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:

New Approach?

“Quadruple the number of…”
“Add 100 new agents…”
“Fund 65 new…”
“Double funding…”
“Double funding…”
“Increase funding…”
“Establish an Office…”
“Require the Office…”
“Require the Office…”

I am not sure that adding more people, money, offices, and requirements will have much effect. This approach has never been effective in the past. Maybe it would be simpler and more effective to just jail the existing people who are in the existing offices with the existing money for not doing their jobs according to the existing requirements? I realize that there may not be provisions in current law to do this, but maybe that needs to change.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: New Approach?

Jailing probably wouldn’t work out, but as pointed out above cutting their funding just might.

It’s one thing to have to brush aside ‘why the hell aren’t you doing anything?’ questions, that just takes someone having to waste a few hours ignoring/stonewalling politicians, but slashing their budget because they clearly don’t need it, that is likely to get their attention, and more to the point that’s something that the politicians in question already have the power to do as far as I know.

Anon says:

Easy Targets

This simply encourage the police forces to target the "low hanging fruit". Any time a teenager is picked – shoplifting, graffiti, going through a stop sign – intimidate them into allowing a phone search. Charge them and anyone connected for sexting pictures. At the end of the year… "Look, we arrested, charged, and convicted 3 times as many child porn producers and distributors thanks to this funding!"

A good bill would aim at actual adults actually exploiting not kids doing what comes naturally. Leaving it up to law enforcement to decide what to target, and then holding them to statistical targets – what could possibly go wrong?

Maybe the real targets are hard to catch because… they make it hard to get caught. The stupid easy targets are falling by the wayside. What they need is not 100 new agents or double funding or a demand for better results, but spending on actual capable computer investigators, education on hacker strategies, and all the things that allow cybercrimes to be properly investigated.

me says:

Money is the root...

The creation of child porn is an incredibly lucrative industry today, and because its illegal, the profits it creates are un-taxable.

This means that its exactly the sort of business that mega-wealthy folks love to invest in. Since there has been no real effort for decades, by law enforcement to do the job its been tasked with, regardless of the laws passed in that effort, the probability that the mega-wealthy investors are waging a behind the scenes cash-war against effective legislation and enforcement is extremely high and fairly obvious.

Therefor, the chance that any effort by law-makers to enforce real investigation and prosecution of child porn creators is pretty much the same as that for the survival of a "snow-flake in hell", while weak legislation and lack of serious enforcement against the makers and buyers of CP by government agencies does little more than maintain product pricing and keep the wealthy investors happy.

As long as the legal system in the USA is open to capital control such as lobbying, the mega wealthy investors will keep these illegal industries strong and the laws against them, weak, and government agency prosecution efforts, ineffective.

Money is the root of all evil, after all. 🙂

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