“Children are uniquely vulnerable to wicked people who hide in the internet’s shadows. Law enforcement needs modern resources to stop and punish child predators, and this bill delivers a critical tool for the good guys.”
WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) today introduced the Targeting Child Predators Act of 2020 to help stop children from being exploited online. Current law gives suspected predators opportunity to evade prosecution when Internet Service Providers alert them to potential law enforcement investigations.
“Children are uniquely vulnerable to wicked people who hide in the internet’s shadows. Law enforcement needs modern resources to stop and punish child predators, and this bill delivers a critical tool for the good guys,” said Kennedy.
“Internet Service Providers can be invaluable partners to law enforcement in tracking down child sexual predators, but ISPs often alert the predator to inquiries about their identity, making it easier for them to evade prosecution. This bill would forbid ISPs from telling these criminals that their information has been requested by law enforcement until their actions can be properly investigated,” said Cornyn.
“Child exploitation is particularly awful, and every second counts when it comes to putting these types of criminals behind bars. This bill will give law enforcement another tool to respond swiftly to these crimes, find predators, and bring them to justice,” said Cotton.
“I thank Senators Kennedy, Cornyn and Cotton for standing up for vulnerable children by introducing the Targeting Child Predators Act which I sponsored in the House of Representatives when I was a congressman. It passed in the House and the Senate should act similarly to ensure online predators are swiftly prosecuted and our children are protected,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
When investigating the exploitation of children online, law enforcement can typically match an IP address to a suspected predator. Officials may then use this evidence to obtain a subpoena to collect the name of the person attached to the IP address from an Internet Service Provider.
Internet Service Providers routinely comply with such subpoenas, but often immediately inform the users—in these cases, suspected child predators—of the request. Suspects who discover that law enforcement is investigating them regularly erase their internet footprints, which can make prosecuting online child predators nearly impossible.
The Targeting Child Predators Act would allow law enforcement to obtain a subpoena that forbids the Internet Service Provider from notifying the targeted user that his or her information has been requested. This prohibition would be valid for 180 days to give law enforcement sufficient time to determine whether to prosecute the individual in question.
The legislation applies only in cases of suspected child exploitation. In addition, law enforcement must certify that, if the Internet Service Provider disclosed the information request to the targeted suspect, that disclosure could enable suspects to:
- endanger the life or physical safety of an individual,
- flee from prosecution,
- destroy or tamper with evidence,
- intimidate a potential witness, or
- otherwise seriously jeopardize an investigation.
The Targeting Child Predators Act does not expand what type of evidence law enforcement can collect. The bill allows for judicial review of the subpoenas.
This bill passed the House in the 115th Congress by a voice vote, and its text is available here.