Column by Bob Goodlatte
The Internet is one of the most useful inventions of all time. The Internet provides access to a wealth of information and services that enable our children to look up information for school projects, allows us to check the weather for Saturday’s soccer game, and even to order groceries online and have them delivered to our door. Unfortunately, the Internet can also be used by criminals to prey on our children.
There are an estimated 77 million kids online today, and there is a 100 percent chance of a child encountering a predator in a chat room, according to the FBI. As a parent, I am both alarmed and angered by these statistics, and as a member of Congress, I believe we have a duty to protect our children and stop predators from hurting our youth. We must educate parents and children about the dangers of these predators on the Internet.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed a series of bipartisan bills that address the problem of sex offenders on the Internet and Internet safety for children. Included in this legislative package was an important bill that goes after the money that fuels this horrific crime. This legislation prohibits money laundering offenses as part of a child-pornography scheme and clarifies existing law to prohibit knowingly accessing child pornography with the intent to view it.
Additionally, the House passed legislation that creates a criminal penalty that is vitally important for prosecuting against the use of an emerging tool used by child pornographers to prey on children anonymously – virtual-money systems. Virtual-money systems are nearly untraceable since predators can provide fictitious personal information and no credit card or Social Security numbers. This critical legislation provides our law enforcement the tools to keep pace with changing technologies.
Also included in this legislative package was a bill in direct response to a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals that reversed a conviction for receipt and possession of child pornography. The court maintained that under current law the government had to prove that interstate transmission of child pornography occurred. This important legislation fixes this glaring oversight in current law by expanding the jurisdiction to prosecute these crimes even when the child pornography is not downloaded but is viewed.
Finally, the House passed legislation that requires the Federal Trade Commission to pursue a nationwide public-awareness campaign. The campaign will include common-sense tips on how to protect your children from victimization on the Internet.
America’s children deserve every protection we can afford them. I encourage parents, teachers, librarians, and youth leaders to take this opportunity to talk to children about the dangers of the Internet and how to avoid them. By working together, we can help keep our children safe and out of the reach of Internet predators.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.