WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on the Senate to take action on bipartisan bills that would protect child safety online, including his bipartisan STOP CSAM Act.
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Durbin’s bipartisan STOP CSAM Act – which advanced unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year – would crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online, support victims, and increase accountability and transparency for online platforms. Regulations reigning in Big Tech companies have since gone into effect in the European Union.
“A few weeks ago, regulations enacted in the European Union went into effect that cover more than a dozen of the world’s biggest tech platforms. This includes online marketplaces, app stores, and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram … This shows that Big Tech can be regulated. It is possible to craft rules to protect our families without breaking the miracle of the internet. In contrast to what’s happening in Europe, here in the United States, Congress has failed to regulate tech.”
Durbin demanded action for the victims of these crimes, including those exploited by Cornell Johnson.
“Let me tell you about one young man named Cornell Johnson. He is from Illinois. He is a man who preyed on 17 victims, ranging in age from four to 17 years old, located across eight states. His tool of choice: Facebook. Johnson would set up profiles claiming to be a woman and then use these Facebook profiles to contact girls all over the country. First, he would entice these girls to send him sexually suggestive images of themselves in various stages of undress. Then he would use these images to coerce the victims into sending him sexually explicit content,” said Durbin.
Durbin continued: “He was prosecuted and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. Johnson was held accountable for his conduct. But what about Facebook? Johnson could not have committed his crimes without the social media platform. He could not have sexually exploited those 17 children in eight states. Yet our current law, as written, shields Facebook from any accountability for the role they played in making Johnson’s crimes possible.”
In June, Durbin and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led a bipartisan group of ten Judiciary Committee members in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg regarding a Wall Street Journalreport that exposed how Instagram’s algorithms connect pedophiles and guide them to locations to purchase child sexual abuse material. Zuckerberg and Meta have yet to respond.
“I believe that we can live in a world where user privacy and child safety can coexist,” said Durbin. “And I believe that I have written a bill that does just that. My STOP CSAM Actwill end Big Tech’s free ride and give victims a way to hold these companies accountable for their failure to stop online child sexual exploitation—and, in some cases, for their actions that make it worse.”
Durbin concluded his speech by emphasizing the substantive collaboration with stakeholders that resulted in the bill, as well as emphasizing that inaction is not an option.
“Importantly, the bill achieves this goal in a manner that will avoid any unintended impact on technology that protects privacy. The STOP CSAM Act is the product of extensive consultations with stakeholders. It passed out of the Judiciary Committee, which I chair, unanimously. Every Democrat, every Republican supported it. And, I’m working to bring it to the floor. The Senate must act. Our failure to do so will preserve the status quo, where our children are being sexually exploited online every day,” Durbin finished.
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Since the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on this issue in February, five bills have recently advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis to help stop the exploitation of kids online, including:
- The STOP CSAM Act, which supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.
- The EARN IT Act, which removes tech’s blanket immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws and establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention;
- The SHIELD Act, which ensures that federal prosecutors have appropriate and effective tools to address the nonconsensual distribution of sexual imagery;
- The Project Safe Childhood Act, which modernizes the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation crimes; and
- The REPORT Act, which combats the rise in online child sexual exploitation by instilling new measures to help strengthen reporting of those crimes to the CyberTipline.
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