Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced the Senate passage yesterday evening of bicameral, bipartisan legislation she led with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to help protect children from online abuse and trafficking. The END Child Exploitation Act will assist law enforcement investigations into these heinous crimes by extending the period of time that technology companies are required to preserve information about child sexual abuse images they report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives in order to become law.
“I’ve stood up for trafficking victims since I was Nevada’s Attorney General, and I know how difficult investigations into online child abuse can be,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bill is going to make it easier for our law enforcement agencies to hold perpetrators of child exploitation accountable, and I urge the House to pass it swiftly. I’ll keep doing everything I can to protect children from trafficking and abuse.”
“Children are increasingly living their lives behind screens, and the jarring reality is this leaves more innocent kids at risk of online exploitation,” said Senator Blackburn. “The bill is a significant step forward in our efforts to protect our children online because it allows law enforcement to collect evidence needed to hunt down online predators. I am pleased this legislation has unanimously passed the Senate, and I encourage the House to promptly take up this critical legislation so that it can get to the President’s desk.”
The END Child Exploitation Act was first introduced in December 2019 following the release of a New York Times investigative report highlighting disturbing growth in online child exploitation across the country. The report found that technology companies reported more than 69 million images and videos depicting abuse in 2019. Currently, these companies are required to retain information on these images for 90 days after reporting the material to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). However, this timeframe is often not enough for under-resourced law enforcement to conduct the necessary investigative process. The END Child Exploitation Act doubles this time frame to 180 days and ensures these companies are legally able to retain the material longer if needed to prevent the proliferation of child exploitation material.
Senator Cortez Masto has been an outspoken advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. In 2020, she passed the bipartisan Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act to help address the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women. She cosponsored and helped secure passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to help law enforcement arrest violent predators and improve access to resources for survivors. Her bipartisan Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act, which requires state programs to allow sexual assault victims to file for compensation without being unfairly penalized for delays due to rape kit backlogs, was included in the reauthorization. She also led the call for robust funding for the Byrne JAG grant program in the FY2022 omnibus to make sure that law enforcement has the resources they need to hold perpetrators accountable. She has introduced the bipartisan Interdiction for the Protection of Child Victims of Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act.