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NetChoice SHIELD “H”: HOLD Online Predators Accountable

Keeping kids safe online is a key priority for U.S. businesses and policymakers. But so often, the laws we have already implemented get obscured in the conversation. When it comes to getting predators off the streets—and off the internet—unfortunately, there isn’t enough being done. 

In NetChoice’s SHIELD campaign, we’ve made it one of our top 6 priorities to help lawmakers find solutions to improve the digital experience: “H” stands for “HOLD.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) needs to start holding online predators accountable by enforcing the laws we already have on the books.

A recent report from Stop Child Predators, an advocacy group to protect children from exploitation, was written by 5 child safety, human rights, social services and domestic violence experts. The authors analyze how the proposals currently in front of Congress may or may not more effectively combat child exploitation online and put more predators in prison.

One section of the report explains one of the biggest problems in this conversation that isn’t getting nearly enough attention: current laws against online predators are not being enforced properly

As the authors write, “Passing bills into law without implementing them effectively is pointless.”

The law analyzed by Stop Child Predators in its report is the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, spearheaded by then-Senator Joe Biden. This law aimed to create, “a strong nationwide network of highly trained law enforcement experts to track down these offenders and put them behind bars,” according to then-Sen. Biden’s press release after the bill was passed.

Despite this excellent and commendable effort to put predators operating online in jail, the DOJ has fallen into noncompliance with the PROTECT Our Children Act. According to a December 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the DOJ has only issued an update to its strategy 2 times, has failed to execute most of the provisions outlined in its strategy, and hasn’t issued an update since 2016—insufficiently addressing these crimes over the past 8 years. 

While some legislation may be appropriate to fill the funding gaps for law enforcement, the DOJ must actively work to enforce the existing laws it already has on the books to stop predators pursuing children online. If President Biden is serious about keeping kids safe online, as he claimed in his State of the Union speech, then he needs to start with ensuring that his DOJ is executing the laws the U.S. already has that he himself helped to pass into law. No law will be effective at stopping the criminals abusing Americans and our children if it isn’t enforced.   

NetChoice calls on President Biden to HOLD predators accountable that harm kids online by enforcing existing laws, like the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008.

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