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Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act to Crack Down on the Proliferation of Child Sex Abuse Material Online

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to advance the Strengthening Transparency and Obligations to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (STOP CSAM Act).  The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cracks down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online, 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.  I’m pleased that my Judiciary Committee colleagues unanimously supported the STOP CSAM Act in Committee today.  The legislation is a comprehensive approach to close gaps in the law and crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online.  I look forward to continue to work with my colleagues on this effort.”

Specifically, Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act 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, or that host or store CSAM or make it available.  A criminal provision prohibits the same conduct.  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, ECPAT-USA, Raven, Child Rescue Coalition, the National District Attorney’s Association, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Criminal Justice Training Center, and the Youth Power Project.

From March 2009 to February 2022, the number of victims identified in child sexual abuse material (CSAM) rose from 2,172 victims to more than 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 more than 32 million reports.

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.