U.S. Rep. Barton Pushes Internet "Child Protection" Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, is urging his Congressional colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of a bill that its proponents claim will provide essential tools for the fight against the exploitation of children over the Internet.

The legislation, H.R. 3845, also known as the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2007, attempts to provide steps to ensure that law enforcement has the resources it needs to pursue child predators. PROTECT is an acronym for Providing Resources, Officers and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats.

Barton sees child predation as more than a problem: “It is a vicious, malicious virus that has the potential to destroy our children,” Barton said.

According to the bill, “The Internet has facilitated the growth of a multibillion-dollar global market for images and video of children being sexually displayed, raped and tortured, far exceeding the capacity of law enforcement to respond at the federal, state and local level.”

“There are over 3 million images of child pornography on the Internet right now,” Barton said. “In the last Congress, as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, under my direct request, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held nine hearings on the problem of child Internet pornography.”

Barton is the lead Republican sponsor of this legislation, which went on to pass the House by a vote of 415-2. Among other things, the legislation authorizes $400 million in increased funding to federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI that are at the forefront of investigating child pornography.

The bill would authorize increased funding for forensic computer labs, given the finding by the Energy and Commerce Committee that the investigation of Internet child pornography is often hampered by a backlog at forensic computer labs.

The legislation would also support the state Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces, helping these task forces receive needed support.

According to the bill, “Millions of children and teens in the U.S. are at risk from sexual predators who are hunting, stalking and luring minors online. Along with the incredible access to the world offered our children by the Internet, the Internet also offers the world access to our children.”

Finally, the bill provides greater coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement by the creation of a new office within the Justice Department to help these entities work together in investigating child exploitation crimes.

“We have to do something,” Barton said about the abhorrent problem of child Internet pornography. “This bill, the PROTECT Act, is a good first start.”