AG Wants Tougher Net Porn Laws
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U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rolled out a series of proposals today aimed at cracking down on Internet child pornography.
Speaking at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., Gonzales said the Department of Justice (DoJ) is sending legislation to Congress calling for commercial Web sites to include warning labels on every page that contains sexually explicit material.
In addition to the warning labels, Gonzales called for outlawing the practice of using "innocuous" search terms to direct people to porn sites.
According to the DoJ, the legislation would prohibit an individual from "knowingly acting with the intent to deceive another individual into viewing obscene material."
The legislation would also make it illegal to "knowingly [act] with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to the minor."
The Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006 would triple existing criminal fines for Internet service providers (ISPs) failing to report the presence of child pornography on their systems.
Under Gonzales's proposal, ISPs would face a $150,000 fine for the first offense and $300,000 for each subsequent violation.
"At the most basic level, the Internet is used as a tool for sending and receiving large amounts of child pornography on a relatively anonymous basis," Gonzales said. "But the Internet has become more than just an expanding supply of images for pedophiles to gratify their urges."
Gonzales said prior to the Internet, law enforcement officials tightly contained child pornography with pedophiles relegated to underground bookstores and secret mailings.
"Today, though, pedophiles can download or trade images on the Web, through e-mail, in chat rooms or newsgroups or over peer-to-peer networks or file servers," he said.
"Sadly, the Internet age has created a vicious cycle in which child pornography continually becomes more widespread, more graphic and more sadistic, using younger and younger children."
The Internet, Gonzales said, provides a community for pedophiles. In many cases, the price for joining the community is to offer the group new pornographic images.
"Images of sexual abuse of children become something of a currency -- a way to get more pictures," he said. "So the Internet just feeds a vicious cycle. It makes child pornography more accessible and validates the pedophiles' behavior in their minds, driving them to molest even more children and to make new and increasingly vulgar material."
In January, the FBI testified that no more new laws are needed to deal with online child pornography, insisting existing prohibitions are more than adequate to prosecute kiddy porn purveyors.
At that hearing, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told the panel legal Internet sites containing pornography have grown from 14 million to 260 million in 2003. He said the number of child porn sites -- all illegal -- is approximately 100,000.