DOJ Proposes New Efforts to Combat Child Porn

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – Stepping up efforts to combat child pornography and obscenity, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delivered an address at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Thursday pinpointing the Justice Department’s strategy to crack down on child pornography and obscenity on the Internet.

Gonzales introduced a new legislative initiative, the Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006, aimed at not only protecting children from becoming exposed to explicit material, but also encouraging “electronic communications services providers” to report the presence of child pornography on their systems. If they fail to do so, Internet service providers could be looking at fines of up to $300,000 per violation if they don't comply with the directive from Justice.

Among the many aspects of the proposed legislation, it would require adult websites to include warning labels on their homepages and make sure that sexually explicit material is – at a very minimum – a click away.

The legislation also would prohibit any attempts to deceive another individual into viewing obscene material or knowingly acting with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful.

“I think it is time to deliver a wake-up call about the true nature and scope of this criminal activity – the depth of the depravity and the harm being inflicted upon innocent children,” Gonzales said.

In his speech before the NCMEC, Gonzales targeted chatrooms, underground child porn-sharing communities or “clubs” that encourage the production and sharing of child porn images, pedophiles who share the live streaming video of children being sexually violated, and the practice of hiding terms in a website's code so that a search for common terms on the Internet yields links to sexually explicit websites featuring child porn.

However, adult entertainment attorney Lawrence G. Walters said that while the government's repeated efforts to crack down on child pornography are noble, they have again managed to blur the lines between adult entertainment offered for the enjoyment of consensual adults and child pornography.

"The intent of what the government is trying to accomplish is clearly that they want to put the burden of proof on the ISPs to identify and investigate child porn," Walters told XBIZ. "But what sticks out is that this is just another dishonest attempt to tie the issues of child pornography with adult entertainment. These are two completely different issues, and it is an attempt to rile up the American public and focus that ire on the adult industy, which is not responsible for child pornography. We see this over and over again."

In concluding his speech, Gonzales called on parents, communities, business, civic, industry and political leaders to get more involved in helping protect children from what he called "the numerous threats" posed by the Internet as both a tool for the sexual enticement of underage children and a platform through which child porn content can be freely shared among pedophiles.

“At the most basic level, the Internet is used as a tool for sending and receiving large amounts of child pornography on a relatively anonymous basis,” he said. “The threat is frighteningly real … it is growing rapidly, and it must be stopped.”

According to a recent report on NBC’s “Dateline,” at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children.

Gonzales said he intends to push the legislation through Congress as quickly as possible.

“We’re glad the Attorney General emphasized the importance of educating the public about online predators, and we agree with him that parents must be the first line of defense," Joan Irvine, executive director of ASACP said, told XBIZ. "He also wants to enlist more help from ISPs and communications providers in the fight against child pornography. ASACP has been working with such companies for years, and our members in the adult industry have been more than just early adopters of new technologies, adult companies have been leaders, helping ASACP fight child pornography with all the tools at our disposal.”