Children Suffer Amid Lack of Funding to Combat Online Sex Abuse

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Photo by Cristoph Scholz via Flickr

The market for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) has exploded to crisis levels, with reports spiking 28 percent, from nearly 17 million in 2019 to 21.8 million in 2020. But  one of the signature laws to investigate child abuse, written by President Joe Biden when he was a senator, has never been fully funded by Congress, leaving law enforcement under-resourced and investigating just a fraction of tips, reports USA Today.

The PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, sponsored by Biden when he was a U.S. Senator from Delaware, authorized Congress to spend $60 million a year to support the nation’s 61 Internet Crimes Against Children task forces composed of local and regional law enforcement.

The closest Congress ever came to fully funding the task forces was when it used economic stimulus money in 2009. The most it’s earmarked since then was $36 million in the 2019 fiscal year. Last year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children took nearly 22 million reports of abusive images or videos, while the government allocated nearly $35 million to the task forces — about $320 per investigation.

The federal money is typically used to train investigators and purchase equipment, but rarely do law enforcement agencies have full-time staff dedicated to child abuse investigations.

A bipartisan bill in Congress, known as the EARN IT Act, would open online platforms to civil lawsuits if they host CSAM and establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention.

The Biden administration has also proposed adding $26 million to the Department of Justice budget to support the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008 he led as a U.S. senator, which funds the nation’s five dozen Internet Crimes Against Children task forces.

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