Trump and Clinton voice biartisan support to protect children online
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Back to school season this year notably also marks the 25th anniversary of the internet. And though the internet is widely used and enjoyed as a culturally transformative technology, it can also be misused for unspeakable evil and devastating harm to children.

In the years since sexual predators and the truly depraved began posting black market images of child porn and extreme obscenity online and conversing in chat rooms about how to molest children during the early 1990s, both types of illegal content have continued to explode onto the internet. Disturbingly, sexual predators have only continued to find new ways of avoiding law enforcement detection while continuing their internet-enabled exploitation of children.

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The rise of the internet has unfortunately coincided with the failure of federal law enforcement agencies to pursue violations of obscenity laws and adequately resource child pornography, sexual predation and trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The results have been devastating. With respect to dangerous content, for the past two decades, young people have had free and easy access to a steady diet online content that has put them at even greater risk from sexual predators.

But the rising threat to our children has not come without a fight. And for the first time in our nation’s history, both the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees have now committed their support in writing to address this issue.

This year, Enough Is Enough (EIE) a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to make the internet safer for children and families launched The Children’s internet Safety Presidential Pledge. The pledge asks each of the presidential candidates, if elected, to commit to the aggressive enforcement of existing federal laws and advancing public policies designed to 1) prevent the sexual exploitation of children online and 2) to make the internet safer for all.

The pledge is explicitly focused on children’s online safety- from appointing an Attorney General who will aggressively enforce all the federal laws designed to prevent internet crimes against children, to providing law enforcement and intelligence communities the resources and tools needed to investigate and prosecute obscenity, child-pornography, sexual-predation, and sex-trafficking laws.

Wisely recognizing the severity of this issue, both of the major parties’ campaigns immediately responded to The Children’s internet Safety Presidential Pledge. Consistent with his position as the law and order candidate, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE wasted no time in signing onto the pledge directly, sending a strong message of support to fight for our children’s safety online. And though the Clinton campaign insists that they do not sign pledges, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE has written a letter in support of the pledge.

“I am grateful for your leadership and efforts in preventing the sexual exploitation of children online. Please know that you have my commitment in this fight to protect our young people form the threats of pornography, sexual predators and traffickers. As a Senator,” Secretary Clinton writes, “I was proud to co-sponsor and support many pieces of legislation aimed at protecting our children from predators.”

One thing is for certain; this issue transcends a partisan or political divide. The rise in youth consumption and exposure to pornography consumption is not a concern limited only to the conservative or “prudish.” New York Times columnist Judith Shulevitz underscores this point in her recent column, “It’s O.K., Liberal Parents, You Can Freak Out About Porn.” Sadly, the data only confirms that there is much to be “freaking out” about concerning the correlation between children’s exposure to extreme content and how it enables sexual predators online.

Meta-analysis of pornography research done this year reveals adolescent pornography consumption is significantly associated with stronger gender-stereotypical sexual beliefs, earlier sexual debut, and increased sexual aggression both as perpetrators and victims. Just between 2005 and 2011, there was a 774 percent increase in the number of child pornography images and videos reviewed through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program.

It is critical for our nation’s leaders to aggressively address this problem. Giving consideration to appoint a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of internet hard-core obscene pornography and the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital age is the least we can do as a first step – and is a priority of the Children’s internet Safety Presidential Pledge.

It’s past time for the nation to rally in defense of our children and collectively declare that enough is enough! When the next President of the United States makes a decision to prevent the internet-enabled sexual exploitation of our nation’s youth, the tide will begin to turn.

Donna Rice Hughes is an internet safety pioneer, author, and speaker and currently serves as the CEO and president of Enough Is Enough, a non-profit organization committed making the internet safer for children and families. She also served as a Commissioner on the Child Online Protection Commission. www.enough.org; www.internetsafety101.org


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