WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech today at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Alexandria, Virginia, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales highlighted the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat the scourge of child pornography on the Internet and protect innocent children against heinous crimes. To build on these partnership efforts with NCMEC he also announced a new legislative initiative aimed at combating the scourge of child pornography and obscenity on the Internet.
The new legislation is designed to help ensure that electronic communications services providers report the presence of child pornography on their systems by strengthening criminal penalties for failing to report the presence of child pornography. The legislation is also aimed at protecting individuals from inadvertently coming across pornographic images on the Internet.
In order to help encourage communications providers to report the presence of child pornography on their systems, the legislation would triple the current criminal fines levied against providers for knowing and willful failures to report, making the available fines $150,000 for the initial violation and $300,000 for each subsequent violation.
In order to protect individuals from inadvertently coming across pornographic materials on the Internet, the legislation would require all websites that are operated primarily for commercial purposes to include warning labels on every page that contains sexually explicit material. In addition, the legislation would prohibit such websites from initially displaying sexually explicit material without further action, such as an additional click, by the viewer.
Finally, the new legislation would prohibit the practice, often engaged in by certain sexually explicit websites, of hiding innocuous terms in a website’s code so that a search for common terms on the Internet would yield links to the sexually explicit websites. The legislation would prohibit an individual from knowingly acting with the intent to deceive another individual into viewing obscene material, and also prohibits an individual from knowingly acting with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to the minor.
These initiatives are in addition to the many important changes in law that the House of Representatives has passed as part of H.R. 4472, now pending in the Senate. That legislation would improve sex-offender registration laws and toughen criminal penalties for violating registration requirements. It also includes the provisions of the Administration-drafted Child Pornography Prevention and Obscenity Prosecution Act of 2005, which would improve the legal arsenal available to detect and prosecute child pornography. Senate passage of H.R. 4472 and its enactment into law is a key component of a more effective anti-child pornography strategy.
In his speech to NCMEC, the Attorney General reiterated that “[p]rotecting children from these dangers is one of my highest priorities as Attorney General.” The legislation announced today, as well as Project Safe Childhood, which was announced on February 15 and will be launched in May, are a key part of the Department of Justice’s effort to protect America’s children from those individuals who would harm them.