Durbin Visits Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center To Discuss Legislation To Crack Down On Online Child Sex Abuse

CHICAGO  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, visited Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC) to discuss his legislation to crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday by a unanimous vote. The Strengthening Transparency and Obligations to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment (STOP CSAM) Act supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.

“As parents, we strive to create a safe haven for our children where we can lock the doors and protect them from harm in the real world,”said Durbin. “But the virtual world knows no locked doors, allowing predators to slip in undetected through the gateway of our kid’s smartphones. It is our responsibility as lawmakers to ensure their safety and shield them from harm. The STOP CSAM Act is a critical tool in our arsenal, enabling us to preserve the innocence of our kids, while holding accountable those who seek to exploit and harm them.”

“Since taking office as Attorney General, identifying and prosecuting online predators in Illinois has been one of my very top priorities,”said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “Protecting children requires a collaborative approach, which is why I applaud Senator Durbin’s leadership in Washington on this issue and look forward to the STOP CSAM Act becoming law.”

“Tens of thousands of children live with the knowledge that their sexual abuse is being shared with thousands of people on the internet, prolonging their suffering with little recourse,” said Char Rivette, CEO, CCAC. “The STOP CSAM Act will strengthen protections for children on the internet, while also creating opportunities for victims to hold tech platforms accountable for their role in facilitating their exploitation. Thank you, Senator Durbin, for helping create a safe online experience for children, and closing the gaps that allow predators to proliferate their abuse.”

“I am grateful for Senator Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act, a vital piece of legislation that aims to fight the heinous crime of child sexual abuse materials,” said Dr. Norell Rosado, Division Head, Child Abuse Pediatrics, Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act expands protections for child victims and witnesses in federal court; facilitates restitution for victims of child exploitation, human trafficking, sexual assault, and crimes of violence; and empowers victims by making it easier for them to ask tech companies to remove child sexual abuse material and related imagery from their platforms and by creating an administrative penalty for the failure to comply with a removal request.

The legislation holds tech companies accountable and encourages transparency by expanding the federal civil cause of action for child victims to also permit victims of online child sexual exploitation to bring a civil cause of action against tech platforms and app stores that promoted or facilitated the exploitation, or that host or store CSAM or make it available. A criminal provision prohibits the same conduct. The bill strengthens current CyberTipline reporting requirements; requires large tech companies that are subject to the CyberTipline statute to submit annual reports describing their efforts to promote a culture of safety for children on their platform; and further amends the CyberTipline statute to provide a variety of tools to promote compliance with the statute’s mandates.

The STOP CSAM Act is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Children’s Alliance, ECPAT-USA, Raven, Child Rescue Coalition, the National District Attorney’s Association, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Criminal Justice Training Center, the Youth Power Project, Hope for Justice, and Street Grace.

From March 2009 to February 2022, the number of victims identified in child sexual abuse material (CSAM) rose from 2,172 victims to more than 21,413 victims.  From 2012 to 2022, the volume of reports to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline concerning child sexual exploitation increased from 415,650 reports to more than 32 million reports.