Thank you so much for inviting me to speak to you today. I am delighted to join in the company of do many people who have devoted themselves to protecting children in their interaction with the internet. This is an historic event because a diverse group has united in a common effect to make the internet a safe, rewarding and educational experience for children. I applaud the summit organizers for the tremendous time and effort they have put into making this event a success.
Children, Technology and the Internet
Advances in computer and telecommunications technologies, along with the explosive growth of the internet, have given children a powerful and exciting new educational resource. Children use the internet for research, to visit museums, play educational games, tour different countries and communicate with their counterparts around the world. This technology has also allowed our nation's children to become vulnerable to exploitation and harm to pedophiles and other sexual predators. These perpetrators use the internet for such illegal acts as luring children into illicit sexual relationships and widespread distribution of child pornography. It used to be that children could be kept from harm by keeping them at home. Now, cyber-predators and child pornographers can reach out to children who innocently spend time learning and playing on the family computer. One of the greatest challengers we face in this area of law enforcement is to identify on-line predators or traffickers in child pornography. Current technology often allows these criminals to mask their location and identity. Moreover, unlike other harms that may come to our children, crimes perpetrated over the internet may never be reported to or even noticed by a parent. The youngest may not even know that something wrong has occurred.
Current Law Enforcement Efforts
There is much that we have done in federal law enforcement to protect children from the hazards of the internet. Perhaps one of the most significant steps we've taken is the information by the FBI of the groundbreaking "Innocent Images" initiative. This program combines technology, sophisticated investigative techniques and coordination among federal and local law enforcement agencies to create an effective task force aimed to sellers and chronic users of child pornography. By collating and analyzing information and images obtained from numerous sources, the task force avoids duplication of investigations and focuses resources on the worst offenders. I applaud the efforts of the FBI and its task force partners, which include the Customs Service, Postal Service, and state and local law enforcement agencies. Congress' recent appropriation of an additional 10 million dollars for enlargement of the innocent images program means the addition of as many as 60 new personnel to support expanded enforcement and training efforts. Initiatives like "Innocent Images," and other important efforts, have enabled the Department of Justice to vigorously prosecute those who purvey child pornography and exploit children, including those who use the internet to do so. Between 1992 and 1996, the Department of Justice increased its filings against those engaging in child pornography by 162 percent. In the same time period, the Department increased its filings against those transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity by 263 percent. This offensive against those who prey on and exploit children is making a real difference, and we will continue to pursue these cases vigorously. These efforts are pieces of a more comprehensive initiative focusing on crimes against children that the Department of Justice, through the FBI and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, has developed. This wider effort seeks to protect children by curbing sexual exploitation, prosecuting parental abducations, fighting abuse on government facilities and Indian reservations, and enforcing child support recovery act cases. Each of the FBI's 56 field officers has now designated two special agents to coordinate this effort, and has tasked these agents with developing multi-agency teams capable of effectively investigating and prosecuting child victim crimes across jurisdictional boundaries. We also continue to work with Congress to ensure laws that protect children remain effective, even as technology advances. Until l996, for example, federal law, prohibiting the interstate distribution of child pornography required that the offending material depict an actual child engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Because technology has advanced to the point where pornographic images may be entirely computer-generated, or partially altered by a computer, images that clearly depicted offending conduct were not covered by the statute. Under the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, which has the strong support of President Clinton, Congress modified the definition of covered images to include computer-generated and other simulated images of children. Additionally, Congress' support of enhanced sentencing guidelines for those convicted of using a computer to possess or traffick in child pornography will help keep dangerous offenders off of the internet an behind bars longer.
Cooperation Between Law Enforcement,
The On-Line industry and Others - New Initiatives
As I have said, I am proud of the vigorous efforts of our federal, state and local law enforcement officials to target and prosecute those who use the internet to harm children. But we cannot do it alone. To succeed in an environment where skilled predators and pornography disseminators navigate the complex electronic web in new and ingenious ways, we must work collaboratively with the on-line industry and advocates for children in this endeavor. Only through a creative and flexible approach to this problem is it possible to hasten development of a safe environment for children on the internet. That is way I am excited about the new initiatives and relationship that have been forged as a result of the summit. First, I think that internet service providers' commitment to a "zero tolerance" policy for child pornography is commendable and a keystone to elimination of this insidious market. This is a significant agreement that involves internet provider trade associations representing 95 percent of the home internet use market. We look forward to working with representatives of service providers in developing additional measures and relationships to assist providers in implementing this important policy. I am also delighted that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is launching a "cyber tip"-line which will serve as a national resource for leads regarding the sexual exploitation of children in cyberspace. This will serve as an important resource for law enforcement efforts against these offenders. The Department of Justice is also proud to participate in an ongoing internet "safety forum" with private industry. A permanent cooperative arrangement, the forum will include representatives from federal law enforcement agencies, internet service providers and associations, and international representatives, to discuss issues of common concern and work toward new solutions to the hazards children face on the internet. In addition, the Department of Justice is expanding its computers training initiative to include joint training with private industry representatives and local law enforcement. Law enforcement needs to know all it can about developments in internet technology and the on-line market; on the other hand, needs to understand its obligations under law and how best to assist law enforcement. More in-depth training will foster cooperation and ensure that all investigations of cyber-crime aimed at children are conducted using the most advanced techniques available. Finally, I cannot stress enough my gratitude for the participation of parents, teachers, librarians and others who have involved the themselves in our children's online experience. You have done much already to protect our children and make the internet a safe place, and we look forward to seeing you at the table in this ongoing process.
Only a First Step
These new initiatives are an important step in protecting our children from the hazards of the internet. They arise from a collaborative model, which we know is the most effective means of protecting our children and enforcing the law. But these measures are only our first steps. The Department of Justice is currently working with state and local law enforcement, with industry, and with public groups to facilitate additional measures designed both to identify predators who would lure children away f rom home, as well to purge the internet of child pornography. I look forward to a continuing dialogue in which we can assess the impact of these new measures and discuss the adoption of future policies. The rapid and global growth of the internet raises a host of complex issues involving criminal law enforcement that expands beyond national boundaries. For this reason, next week I will host a meeting of justice and interior ministers from eight industrialized nations to discuss collaborative efforts to fight high-tech crime. When we meet we will be talking about methods to locate and identify computer criminals so we can bring them to justice. These tools will be invaluable as we fight all computer crimes, including child pornography and predation.
I appreciate all the work and coordination that have gone into sponsoring this summit and I look forward to working with all of you to make the internet an educational and rewarding experience for our children and families.
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