Legislation passed by the House Dec. 5 would triple the penalties for ISPs that knowingly fail to report child pornography on their service and expand the reporting requirements to cover all communications providers, including Wi-Fi operators that offer open connections to the public.
Approved 409-2, the SAFE (Securing Adolescents From Exploitation Online) Act of 2007 would increase the fine for failing to report illegal images to $150,000 per image per day for the first offense, up from the current $50,000 per image per day. Repeat offenders would face $300,000-per-day fines.
By law, ISPs are already required to report child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Va., that works closely with law enforcement officials. In a companion bill, the House voted 408-3 to double funding to the group to $40 million annually through 2013.
"These two bills will put some teeth into the battle against child pornography and the people who produce it, the people who distribute it, the people who buy it and the people who use it as a form of child abuse," Adam Walsh, the center's founder and host of America's Most Wanted, said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
According to Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, the bill's sponsor, the SAFE Act will also increase the efficiency of the center's CyberTipline by requiring communications providers to report the identity and geographic location of suspected child pornography traffickers and to preserve child pornography images for investigative purposes.
"Internet companies need to do their part," Lampson said when introducing the bill. "When we begin to hold Web sites accountable for the images they host, we've taken the first step toward supporting parents in their efforts to protect children. Our combined efforts will help make the Internet a safer place."
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Center President and CEO Ernie Allen said 95 percent of ISPs are already complying with the law by supplying the reports to the CyberTipline. According to Allen, the center expects to handle about 110,000 calls in 2007.
"For the first time, the reauthorization legislation details the wide range of tasks Congress has mandated the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to perform as the national resource center and clearinghouse for missing and exploited children," Allen said.
Both bills now head to the Senate for a vote.
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