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Biden signs bill to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation

Image Credits: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In February 2023, Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-SC) proposed a bipartisan bill to protect children from online sexual exploitation, which then passed the House last month, on April 29.

President Biden officially signed the REPORT Act into law on Tuesday. This marks the first time that websites and social media platforms are legally obligated to report crimes related to federal trafficking, grooming, and enticement of children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) CyberTipline.

Under the new law, companies that intentionally neglect to report child sex abuse material on their site will suffer a hefty fine. For platforms with over 100 million users, a first-time offense would yield a fine of $850,000, for example. To ensure urgent threats of child sexual exploitation are investigated by law enforcement carefully and thoroughly, the law requires evidence to be held for a longer period, which can be up to a year, instead of only 90 days.

The NCMEC faces challenges in investigating the millions of child sex abuse reports they receive each year due to being understaffed and using outdated technology. Although the new law cannot solve the problem entirely, it is expected to make the assessment of reports more efficient by allowing for things like legal storage of data on commercial cloud computing services.

“Children are increasingly looking at screens, and the reality is that this leaves more innocent kids at risk of online exploitation,” said Senator Blackburn in a statement. “I’m honored to champion this bipartisan solution alongside Senator Ossoff and Representative Laurel Lee to protect vulnerable children and hold perpetrators of these heinous crimes accountable. I also appreciate the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s unwavering partnership to get this across the finish line.”