Eshoo, Wyden, Gillibrand, Brown, and Hirono Reintroduce Invest in Child Safety Act to Protect Children from Online Exploitation

February 4, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, today reintroduced legislation to confront online child exploitation and reverse a decade of underfunding key enforcement and prevention efforts. 

The Invest in Child Safety Act would direct $5 billion in mandatory funding to investigate and target the predators and abusers who create and share child sexual abuse material online. It also directs substantial new funding for community-based efforts to prevent children from becoming victims in the first place. 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. 

“Children are at the heart of everything I do in Congress, and protecting them from sexual exploitation is one of the most critical steps to ensure their safety,” Rep. Eshoo said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce the Invest in Child Safety Act to ensure there is substantial funding to support victims and put predators behind bars. Our bill will boost enforcement resources to federal and state agencies and create an Office to Enforce and Protect Against Child Sexual Exploitation in the White House to coordinate enforcement efforts. For victims, it increases funding for evidence-based programs to detect, prevent and support victims of child sexual abuse, including school-based mental health services and prevention programs. For the sake of our nation’s children, I’m hopeful that Congress passes this legislation swiftly.”

“Our government hasn’t done its part to protect children from the monsters who create and share vile sexual abuse materials online. It is long past time for that to change,” Wyden said. “Our bill will put dedicated funding toward prevention, protection and prosecution to keep kids safe and put predators in jail.”

“Congress must do everything in its power to end the scourge of child abuse,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Every year, there are too many incidents of child sexual abuse online, and we must do more to protect our most vulnerable victims. I thank Senator Wyden for his leadership and I will keep working with my colleagues to deliver the needed resources to track and respond to incidents of child abuse, and strengthen protections for our children.”

“We have a collective responsibility to protect our children from online predators, and it’s increasingly important as more of our children turn to technology for education and entertainment. This sweeping legislation will ensure the Justice Department has the resources to properly investigate and prosecute online predators, while putting the wellbeing of victims and their families first,” Brown said.

“The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has received over 65 million reports of child sexual abuse material since its creation. While each of these reports represents a heinous crime, many are never investigated by law enforcement due to a lack of resources,” Senator Hirono said. “The Invest in Child Safety Act makes combatting child sexual abuse material a law enforcement priority and provides vital funding to bring those who exploit children to justice.”

Despite clear congressional mandates, the Justice Department not only never requested additional funding to address this growing scourge, the agency’s last budget actually cut more than $60 million from programs to prevent child exploitation and support victims. Instead, Donald Trump’s DOJ demanded backdoors in encryption, which would weaken security for every American, and make it easier for predators to find and exploit children and other vulnerable populations. 

Wyden spearheaded efforts to protect children, including initiatives to keep families together and kids out of foster care, to bolster local child protective services agencies to aid children in potentially abusive situations, and to strengthen oversight of foster care programs.

The bill, first introduced in 2020, was endorsed by: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Children’s Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, and the Family Online Safety Institute.

The bill would require a historic, mandatory investment in personnel and funding to take on child exploitation, including:

  • 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. 

A copy of the bill text is available here.

A one-page summary of the bill is available here.

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