Proposed Law Would Require ISPs to Forward All Pornographic Images of Children – Including Drawings – to Central Agency

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A new law, called the the “Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act”, or SAFE Act, proposed by Senator McCain and Senator Schumer, would require any ISP to report and forward to a central agency any image which came through or was hosted on their system which meets the Federal definition of child pornography. All of these images would then be held in a central database. This includes drawings and cartoons of children, if they could be considered inappropriate, even if the children don’t actually exist in real life. The SAFE Act would also make the use of the Internet in the violation of child pornography laws an “aggrevating” factor requiring 10 years in prison. ISPs that fail to report such images would themselves be subject to stiff penalties.

The central agency named as the repository for these images is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Once received by the NCMEC, the images would be assigned “unique identification numbers generated from the data contained in the image file,”, allowing, presumably, for image matching, not unlike DNA matching. If an image with one of the “unique identification numbers” turned up in an email or instant message, the ISP would be required to report it.

The new law would amend and apply to existing child pornography laws, including the section which states that “It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist.” In other words, if someone draws something racy, involving someone that does not exist, but that looks like a child, and sends that drawing to someone else in email, not only have they broken the law, but the ISPs involved in the transmission are required to intercept and forward that image, or they too will have broken Federal law.


A statement from Senator McCain’s office explained that the SAFE Act will “enhance the current system for Internet service providers to report child pornography on their systems, making the failure to report child pornography a federal crime.”

In an act that nobody seems to see as ironic, attending the press conference with Senator McCain – to announce the new law intended to help stop the exploitation of adolescents – is Lauren Nelson, who is Miss America, 2007.

You can download and read the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act (SAFE Act) here (this is a PDF file).

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4 thoughts on “Proposed Law Would Require ISPs to Forward All Pornographic Images of Children – Including Drawings – to Central Agency

  1. The text of the bill states that the ISP has to report any instance that they obtain knowledge of but the bill itself does not place a requirement on the ISP to monitor everything that is posted or sent on every account. I’m guessing that every ISP would end up with hotline and webforms where violations would be reported by users so they can forward the information on to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. An ISP can only be prosecuted and fined if it can be proven that they were aware of the illegal activity and they did not report it. Also, when it comes to Christine’s family photos, not only would the ISP have to be made aware of the photos (someone would have to contact the ISP and inform them of your email content), they would also have to prove that the depictions were intended as pornographic as already defined in US code. If you want to view the code yourself you can see it listed on Cornell’s website: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/
    Look under title 18 in sections 2251, 2251A, 2252, 2252A, 2252B, 2260, and 1466A.

  2. Constitutional issues aside, the basic idea does not seem to be workable. These DNA like “unique identification numbersâ€? “generated from the data contained in the image file” sounds like a CRC or other checksum. It would be trivial to bypass this by modifying the image slightly.

  3. Whats going to happen say a Naturist family (such as mine)comes back from a holiday with non sexual photos of their children – the wife or husband emails the photos to their partner (as I have done) & they are intercepted & someone decides thay are pornagraphic?

  4. As I understand it, this would then violate the concept of “common carrier” which means that the ISP, like the phone company, does not look at the data that it carries.

    There is another implication – the ISP would be required to look at *every* jpeg, gif, etc that passes thru. Ignoring the issue of this would be a great gig for a child sex preditor, the amount of time (thus people) is staggering for any given ISP.

    BOttom line – this has serious constitutional and practical issues.

    The concept sounds fine, but it is unworkable.

    The baiting of child preditors in cghatrooms seems to be a much better, and practical method. It also does not create unconstitutional issues.

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