Bipartisan bill aims to stop child pornography trafficking on Defense Department’s network

CNN, ANNA LAFFREY

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill that would crack down on the use of the Department of Defense internet network for trafficking child pornography.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified over 5,000 individuals, several of whom are affiliated with the Defense Department, who subscribe to child pornography websites in an investigation called “Project Flicker.” A subsequent inquiry by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service tagged hundreds of Defense Department affiliates as suspects in child pornography cases, according to a news release.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, and Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, would help the Defense Department stamp out use of its computers and network to access and share child pornography. The legislation would bolster training, improve technical capacities and require collaboration with both law enforcement and social service providers.

Spanberger, a former federal agent who worked on child exploitation and child pornography cases, called the abuse and exploitation of children through pornography “horrific crimes.”

“The notion that the Department of Defense’s network and Pentagon-issued computers may be used to view, create, or circulate such horrifying images is a shameful disgrace, and one we must fight head on,” Spanberger said in a statement.

According to child pornography watchdog Internet Crimes Against Children Child Online Protective Services, the Defense Department network consistently ranks in the top tier of internet service providers for trafficking child pornography. It ranked 19th of nearly 3,000 networks surveyed in 2018.

Meadows said the legislation could close “security gaps” in the Department of Defense’s network to “identify perpetrators and ultimately hold them responsible.”

Reps. Anna Eshoo and T.J. Cox, both California Democrats, cosponsored the House bill. A similar Senate bill was introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, in May.

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