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House Tackles Online Child Porn Challenges

Internet service providers would be given specific responsibilities to report child pornography on their sites and face tough penalties for not doing so under a bill passed Wednesday by the House.

The House also approved a bill to double spending for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a private, nonprofit group created in 1984 with a congressional mandate to act as a clearinghouse for child abduction and sexual exploitation cases.

The first bill, passed 409-2, expands the reporting duties of Internet service providers with respect to violations of child sexual exploitation and pornography laws. The ISPs would have to inform the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of the Internet identity and geographic location of suspected sex offenders and the time child pornography was downloaded.

They also would have to preserve child pornography images for investigations and prosecutions.

ISPs that fail to report incidents of child pornography would be subject to fines of $150,000 per image per day, up from the current $50,000. The penalty would jump to $300,000, double the current rate, for subsequent cases.

With this greater accountability, "we have taken the first step toward supporting parents in their efforts to protect their children; our combined efforts will help make the Internet a safer place," said Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, sponsor of the bill and founder of the House Missing and Exploited Children Caucus.

Lampson was joined at an earlier news conference by John Walsh, host of the TV show "America's Most Wanted" and founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "These two bills will put some teeth into the battle against child pornography and the people who produce it, the people who distribute it, the people who buy it and the people who use it as a form of child abuse," Walsh said.

The second bill, passed 408-3, doubles to $40 million a year through 2013 the amount of federal funds available to the center, which works in partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI and other federal agencies to prevent child abuse and aid its victims. Actual money for the center still has to be determined in annual spending bills.

Since 1984, the center has assisted law enforcement with more than 135,800 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of some 118,700 children. It also operates the congressionally mandated CyberTipline, which since 1998 has handled more than 540,000 phone calls and leads dealing with child pornography, online enticement of children, sexual tourism involving children and child victims of prostitution.

The House votes Wednesday followed action last month on a half-dozen bills aimed at making it easier to monitor and prosecute cyber crimes against juveniles and to educate children about online dangers. All the bills must be considered by the Senate before going to the president for his signature.

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