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House bill targets use of Pentagon networks for child pornography

House bill targets use of Pentagon networks for child pornography
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Reps. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerDuring pandemic, 'telehealth' emerging as important lifeline to connect patients with caregivers Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Spanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter MORE (D-Va.) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsPence's 'body man' among aides who tested positive for coronavirus: report Murphy says US would be 'better off' if Trump admin 'did nothing' on coronavirus Biden: Meadows coronavirus remark a 'candid acknowledgement' of Trump strategy 'to wave the white flag' MORE (R-N.C.) introduced legislation on Tuesday meant to halt the use of Department of Defense (DOD) computer networks by users for sharing or procuring pornographic images of children.

The End National Defense Network Abuse (END Network Abuse) was introduced in the wake of in an investigation called “Project Flicker” carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This investigation identified over 5,000 individuals, including many affiliated with DOD, who were subscribed to child porn websites.

The Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service subsequently identified hundreds of DOD-affiliated individuals as suspects involved in accessing child pornography, several of whom used government devices to view and share the images.

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The END Network Abuse Act would require the Pentagon to enter into agreements with groups including law enforcement, child protection services, social services, and trauma-informed healthcare providers in order to cut down or halt the spread and impact of these images on DOD networks. The bill would also upgrade the training and technical expertise of the military organizations involved in investigating these types of crimes.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Calif.) and T.J. Cox (D-Calif.).

The National Criminal Justice Training Center, one of the groups that has thrown its weight behind the bill, reported in 2018 that DOD's network was ranked 19th out of almost 3,000 nationwide networks on the amount of peer-to-peer child pornography sharing.

Spanberger described the issues of child sexual exploitation and abuse as “horrific crimes.”

“The notion that the Department of Defense’s network and Pentagon-issued computers may be used to view, create, or circulate such horrifying images is a shameful disgrace, and one we must fight head on,” Spanberger said in statement.

Meadows added that the “peer-to-peer trading of child pornography is an unacceptable practice, and federal agencies cannot allow their networks to become a platform for it.”

There is a Senate version of the bill that was introduced in May by Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Hawaii) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday MORE (R-Alaska). A spokesperson for Spanberger told The Hill that while there are no set dates in either the House or Senate for marking up the bill, the sponsors are trying to pass it “both as individual bills and as amendments” to other legislative packages.

Multiple health care and child protection groups have expressed support for the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Children’s Alliance, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center.