State and federal legislation filed to further protect children

AUSTIN, TX - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith have joined forces to advance state and federal legislative efforts that will help protect young Texans from child predators.

"With sexual predators increasingly using new technology to prey upon children, it is critical that law enforcement stay ahead of the criminals," said Abbott. "Innovative legislative responses to high tech crimes are vital to the ongoing success of our crackdown on cyber predators and online child pornographers."

Citing recent developments in the Texas Legislature, Abbott expressed his support for legislation by state Sen. Florence Shapiro and Rep. Aaron Peña that would update state sex offender registration laws. If enacted, Senate Bill 689 and House Bill 1239, would upgrade state sex offender registration laws to reflect modern technological innovations and communications platforms.

Specifically, the bills would require that convicted sex offenders provide their e-mail addresses, mobile telephone numbers, social networking aliases and other electronic identification information to the Department of Public Safety's sex offender registry.

At the federal level, Sen. Cornyn, a former Texas Attorney General, sponsored the Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009 in the U.S. Senate. Congressman Smith, a former Texas legislator, sponsored companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It is our hope that we can garner the support of all our colleagues and pass this bill to strengthen penalties for child sex offenders and Internet predators," Sen. Cornyn said.

"Of the nearly 600,000 images of graphic child pornography found online and reported to law enforcement officials, only 2,100 of these children have been identified and rescued," said Smith. "Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have reached a digital dead end in their battle against the online sexual exploitation of children. Investigators need the assistance of Internet Service Providers to identify users and distributors of online child pornography."

If enacted, the Internet SAFETY Act would:

  • Create a new federal offense for the financial facilitation of child pornography;
  • Create a new federal offense for facilitation of child pornography or child exploitation by an Internet content hosting provider or e-mail service provider;
  • Require the U.S. Attorney General to promulgate regulations regarding the record retention of subscribers' Internet Protocol addresses or user information by Internet Service Providers;
  • Increase penalties for sexual exploitation of children;
  • Increase penalties for activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of children, and those constituting child pornography; and,
  • Provide $30 million a year over five years for the Innocent Images National Initiative.