Bill protects children from predators

We must do more to keep our children safe from online sexual exploitation. That’s why I’ve joined with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in co-sponsoring H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act.

H.R. 1981 enables law enforcement officials to successfully locate and prosecute those who want to hurt our children. 

Often, the only way to identify a pedophile who operates a website or exchanges child pornography images with other pedophiles is by an Internet Protocol (IP) address.  Law enforcement officials must obtain a subpoena and then request from the Internet Service Provider the name and address of the user of the IP address.  Unfortunately, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly purge these records, making it difficult if not impossible for investigators to apprehend child pornographers on the Internet. 

H.R. 1981 directs ISPs to retain Internet Protocol addresses to assist federal law enforcement officials with child pornography and other Internet investigations. 

This is a narrow provision that addresses the retention of only the Internet Protocol addresses the providers assign to their customers.  It does not require the retention of any content.  So the bill does not threaten any legitimate privacy interests of Internet users. 

H.R. 1981 requires providers to retain these records for 18 months.  This mirrors an existing federal regulation that requires telephone companies to retain for 18 months records including the name, address and telephone number of the caller, plus each telephone number called and the date, time and length of the call. 

If telephone companies are already required to retain certain information to aid in the investigation of a crime, why shouldn’t Internet Service Providers be expected to do the same?  In effect, this bill merely applies to the Internet what has applied to telephones for decades.

This is a common sense bill that will reduce child pornography on the Internet and spare thousands of children from being sexually exploited. 

It is hard to believe that anyone would stand in the way of protecting our children from sexual predators. And yet there are some critics who contend that data retention is unnecessary because current law already requires ISPs to preserve records at the request of law enforcement agents for 90 days.  But ISPs can only preserve the information they still have.  By the time investigators discover the Internet child pornography and make the request under this provision, the provider has often already purged the Internet Protocol address records. 

Both Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller have testified that data retention is invaluable to investigating child pornography and other Internet-based crimes. And both Democratic and Republican Administrations have been calling for data retention for a decade. 

We will continue to work with stakeholders to make sure that bill that balances privacy concerns and the needs of Internet Service Providers.  But we all agree that more needs to be done to protect children from sexual predators. 

Data retention is necessary to help track down and apprehend pedophiles who abuse children and destroy lives.  Our children--the most innocent among us--deserve and need our help.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a sponsor of H.R. 1981.