Will incoming Attorney General Bill Barr crack down on criminals who use the internet to sexually exploit children? There’s reason to be optimistic.
The advent of the internet broke through the protective legal barriers that historically shielded the sex industry from grooming our children. The failure of past administrations — with the exception of George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft — to prosecute federal obscenity laws has given a free pass to the multi-billion-dollar internet pornography industry. Under federal law, obscene pornography is illegal to produce and distribute and is therefore is not protected by the First Amendment.
It is no surprise that the U.S. leads the world as the top producer, distributor and exporter of obscene content worldwide which has led to a pandemic of extreme content becoming mainstream. So-called “soft porn” has been replaced by graphic, degrading content affecting what children view as normal. As a result, children worldwide for the past 25 years have had exposed to hardcore internet content depicting anal sex, group sex, violence, barely legal teens, bestiality and incest.
The journal Violence Against Women reported physical aggression in 88.2 percent of leading pornography scenes and verbal aggression in 48.7 percent with 94.4 percent of such aggression directed toward women. The average age at which young people are first exposed to obscene content is 11 years old. However, new research says children 10 years old and younger account for 22 percent of all online obscene-content consumption in the 18-years-old-and-under category.
This unacceptable reality led former British Prime Minister David Cameron to tackle head-on this issue he believed was “corroding childhood.” As a result, internet and Wi-Fi providers in the United Kingdom are now default-filtering child pornography and pornography.
Peer-reviewed research and medical science confirms internet pornography is not only a fueling factor in the sexual exploitation of children, but also fuels child pornography, violence against women, sexual predation and sex trafficking. While the Department of Justice is actively prosecuting child-pornographers, sexual predators and sex-traffickers, the United States still ranks No. 2 in the world, next to the Netherlands, in hosting child-pornography URLs. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
Additionally, the United States is a top consumer of both illegal child pornography and obscene pornography. This content doesn’t satisfy the sexual appetite of the consumers. Instead, it fuels their desire to act out their fantasies, creating a growing demand for more children and women to be sexually abused, prostituted and trafficked. The victims are often further exploited by having the sex acts they are forced to perform filmed and distributed on the internet.
Pope Francis once said, “A society can be judged by the way it treats it children.” In our own nation, the sexual exploitation of children has never been more urgent. As many as 21,000 underage children are part of the national sex trade, according to a 2016 study funded by the Justice Department. And Thorn, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking, reports 75 percent of underage sex-trafficking victims they surveyed say they were advertised online.
To prevent the sexual exploitation of children, the U.S. must address the demand and supply side of this vicious cycle of abuse through the aggressive enforcement of the federal obscenity, child porn, trafficking and sexual predation laws. Restoring this legal barrier is exactly what candidate Donald Trump promised to do when he signed the bipartisan Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge in 2016, which was also supported by candidate Clinton.
The pledge includes the president’s commitment to appoint an attorney general, who will make the vigorous prosecution of the entire rule of federal law a top priority. With William Barr as the chief law enforcement officer in America, the Trump administration is positioned to aggressively drain the cyber swamp and reverse the pandemic of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital world by safeguarding our nation’s most precious resource: our children.
Donna Rice Hughes is president of Enough Is Enough, a national, non-partisan organization fighting to make the internet safer for children and families.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.