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Durbin Introduces Stop CSAM Act to Crack Down on the Proliferation of Child Sex Abuse Material Online

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced the Strengthening Transparency and Obligation to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (STOP CSAM Act), legislation to crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online.  To combat this horrific crime, the STOP CSAM Act supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.

“In almost every aspect of the real world, child safety is a top priority.  But in the virtual world, criminals and bullies don’t need to pick a lock or wait outside the playground to cause harm.  They can harass, intimidate, addict, or sexually exploit our kids without anyone leaving home,” said Durbin.  “The system is failing our children and we, as lawmakers, need to address this head-on.  The STOP CSAM Act is a comprehensive approach to close gaps in the law and crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online.  We need to protect our children and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this effort.”

“The failure to implement common sense child-safety processes has made child exploitation and abuse a feature of digital communication platforms.  The STOP CSAM Act recognizes the urgent need to restore accountability and transparency to this largely unregulated industry that continues to treat children as collateral damage in the race for innovation.  This legislation is a critical step towards creating the necessary safeguards to protect our children, and we applaud Senator Durbin for his leadership on this issue,” said ChildUSA Legal Director, Jessica Schidlow, Esq., MA, NCC.

“At the Youth Power Project, specifically through our Protect Kids Not Abusers coalition, we have worked with hundreds of survivors whose child sexual abuse material has proliferated online.  Oftentimes, survivors never hear back from the platforms that they report their CSAM to, a phenomenon that not only discourages survivors from coming forward and reporting the violence they have faced, but also invalidates the ubiquity of the trauma encapsulated by the material. Even the process of filing a case can be incredibly re-traumatizing and oftentimes requires survivors to relive the abuse they have endured, without regard for their health or the conditions of their abuse.  The Youth Power Project is proud to support the Stop CSAM Act, which will create the conditions for our legal system to renounce the victim-blaming narrative that currently deters so many survivors from coming forward,” said Saanvi Arora, Executive Director, The Youth Power Project.

“NCMEC is proud to support Senator Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act, a comprehensive child protection bill that will fundamentally change how our nation combats online child sexual exploitation. In 2022, NCMEC’s CyberTipline received over 32 million reports relating to child sexual exploitation. The STOP CSAM Act will update the CyberTipline process to ensure reports are more comprehensive, timely, and include a broader range of child sexual exploitation offenses, including planned and imminent crimes. These improvements will enable NCMEC to more quickly prioritize reports and will provide law enforcement with key information to help recover and safeguard victimized children and investigate their offenders. The STOP CSAM Act also provides essential, innovative remedies for children whose images are circulated online. The Report and Remove program will provide victims with legal remedies against online platforms that are notified they are hosting CSAM and sexually exploitative content of a child but refuse to remove the content. The bill will also significantly expand a child’s civil remedies to file suit against an online platform that promotes or facilitates child sexual exploitation. NCMEC thanks Senator Durbin for his leadership on the STOP CSAM Act and his dedication to prioritizing impactful legislation to protect our children online," said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

From March 2009 to February 2022, the number of victims identified in child sexual abuse material (CSAM) rose from 2,172 victims to over 21,413 victims.  From 2012 to 2022, the volume of reports to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline concerning child sexual exploitation increased from 415,650 reports to over 32 million reports.

Specifically, the STOP CSAM Act requires mandatory child abuse reporting, by federal grant recipients that provide services to children and encourages states to enact laws requiring child abuse reporting by child-serving organizations; expands protections for child victims and witnesses in federal court; facilitates restitution for victims of child exploitation, human trafficking, sexual assault, and crimes of violence; and empowers victims by making it easier for them to ask tech companies to remove child sexual abuse material and related imagery from their platforms and by creating an administrative penalty for the failure to comply with a removal request. 

The legislation holds tech companies accountable and encourages transparency by expanding the federal civil cause of action for child victims to also permit victims of online child sexual exploitation to bring a civil cause of action against tech platforms and app stores that promoted or facilitated the exploitation.  The bill strengthens current CyberTipline reporting requirements; requires large tech companies that are subject to the CyberTipline statute to submit annual reports describing their efforts to promote a culture of safety for children on their platform; and further amends the CyberTipline statute to provide a variety of tools to promote compliance with the statute’s mandates.

The STOP CSAM Act is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Children’s Alliance, ChildUSA, ECPAT-USA, Raven, Child Rescue Coalition, Hope for Justice, the National District Attorney’s Association, and the Youth Power Project.

As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin is committed to ensuring children’s online safety.  In February, he held a hearing entitled “Protecting Our Children Online.”  The hearing examined the challenge of ensuring online child safety and privacy, with witnesses testifying to the risks, threats, and harms that children face in the online world.  He is a cosponsor of the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act), legislation which removes blanket immunity for violations of laws related to online CSAM.  He also joined his colleagues in introducing the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act, legislation that would give every American an enforceable legal right to demand that internet companies delete all personal information that was collected from or about the person when he or she was a child under age 13.   

A one-pager of the legislation can be found here.  A section-by-section summary can be found here.