- - Monday, December 30, 2019

Imagine if all across America, the speed limit laws were not enforced, and traffic signals and stop signs were completely ignored because law enforcement had too many other priorities to bother with. Law-abiding citizens would be at risk of injury, significant harm or even death at the hands of those who broke the laws and law enforcement who failed to protect the safety of all.

Similarly, since the advent of the Internet in the early ‘90s, a perfect storm of toxic sexual content, activity and crime has exploded, leaving no one in its path immune from its destruction. While women, men, marriages and cultures have paid a steep price, those who have been most damaged are the most vulnerable and innocent among us, our children.

The United States is a top producer, distributor and exporter of prosecutable obscene pornography. Past administrations (except during Attorney General John Ashcroft’s tenure) have failed to uphold the current law. There is a misconception that obscenity is protected by the First Amendment — but it is not. Federal obscenity laws make it a crime to produce and distribute such content, and failure to aggressively prosecute these laws has given a free pass to the multi-billion-dollar porn industry.

This has led to a pandemic of extreme and deviant content, which has become the new normal. The continuous invasion of graphic, hard-core online pornography into cultures worldwide has been called the “largest unregulated social experiment in human history,” and a public health hazard that we cannot ignore.

Government officials and industry leaders have historically turned a blind eye to the problem. Instead, they’ve passed the buck to parents, who are often uninformed, overwhelmed and/or ill-equipped to protect their children from the onslaught of dangers in 24/7 digital world. Governments can’t parent, and parents can’t enforce the law.

This holiday season, parents need to be reminded to put the critical safeguards in place on all the Internet enabled devices they give their children. Without the parental controls and ongoing oversight of a diligent cyberparent, any child with unrestricted Internet access is just a click away from viewing, either intentionally or accidentally, prosecutable obscenity, depicting graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, excretory functions, bestiality, anal sex and violence. In February 2018, Esquire magazine reported that “incest is the fastest growing trend in pornography.”

Internet pornography has become sex education for many children, and being accessed by younger kids. According to the tech company Bitdefender, kids under the age of 10 years old account for 22 percent of online pornography consumption and minor children (under 18 years old) account for 1 in 10 visitors to pornographic video sites.

Kids now carry what was once black market pornography on their mobile devices, and this toxic material directly impacts their health and mental, emotional and sexual development and their developing brains. A Psychology Today 2016 article reported ” teens and pre-teens with highly plastic brains are compulsively using high-speed Internet porn with their porn tastes becoming out of sync with their real-life sexuality.” According to Prevention Science (2017), the average age of first perpetration of sexual violence is 15-16 and is directly associated with exposure to harmful pornography.

The signing of Enough Is Enough’s bipartisan Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge in 2016 by then-candidate Donald Trump, also supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, promising to appoint an attorney general to aggressively enforce federal obscenity as well child pornography, sexual predation and sex trafficking laws, provided a much needed ray of hope. It signaled a turning point to finally make the enforcement of obscenity laws as much of a priority as are the child pornography and sex trafficking laws.

And yet, until two weeks ago, when four congressman sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr calling on him to crack down on obscene pornography citing President Trump’s commitment under the pledge, there hadn’t been any movement on the part of the Department of Justice to begin prosecuting these cases.

Law enforcement is already at a breaking point due in part to the overwhelming task of enforcing the child pornography laws, also called for in the pledge. In 2018, tech companies reported more than 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexual abused, double the amount from the year before. A New York Times article also revealed the Internet’s largest technology platforms “are failing to effectively shut down the giant portions of online child sexual abuse material.”

The president and his attorney general must make it a priority to aggressively enforce both obscenity and child pornography laws, but they need Congress to revisit its own priorities and provide the necessary funding needed by law enforcement to investigate and prosecute all of the existing laws on the books to prevent the sexual exploitation of children, not just some of them.

The time to drain the cyberswamp is now. When our new chief law enforcement officer begins to go after these unbridled pornographers, who have flagrantly ignored the obscenity laws, the tide will begin to turn. Mr. Barr successfully prosecuted obscenity cases under George H.W. Bush’sterm, and he is the right man to do it again now.

He needs to tell pornographers: “There’s a new sheriff in town, and on my watch, the production and distribution of illegal pornography that is prosecutable under current U.S. obscenity laws will no longer be tolerated. Enough Is Enough!”

The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge is supported by peer-reviewed research showing the severity of the problem.

Donna Rice Hughes is president and CEO of Enough Is Enough (EIE) and has been fighting to make the Internet safer for children and families since 1994. EIE authored “The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide