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Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Efforts To Combat Online Child Exploitation


Fact Sheet
Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs
August 9, 2010

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The U.S. has a strong, multi-faceted response to child pornography, including aggressive law enforcement efforts that attack supply and demand across the distribution chain. Thus, production, distribution, receipt, and simple possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of children is criminalized in the United States. Such material does not enjoy First Amendment protection.

Within the U.S. Department of Justice, these efforts are led by the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). CEOS partners with U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, federal law enforcement agencies, and with foreign law enforcement to identify and prosecute online child exploitation offenders. Within the past three years alone, CEOS-led operations have resulted in individual investigations of more than 2,000 American child exploitation offenders. CEOS also meets with foreign delegations on a regular basis and conducts training abroad to increase the capacity to combat all forms of child sexual exploitation.

Project Safe Childhood: This U.S. government initiative, launched in 2006, includes a multi-faceted approach to internet-facilitated child exploitation crimes, including greater integration of federal, state and local law enforcement efforts, increased national operations and federal involvement in child pornography and enticement cases, improved training, and community awareness.

Public/Private Cooperation: There is a significant amount of NGO and private sector cooperation on this issue. For example, federal law requires Internet service providers to report suspected images of child exploitation found on their servers to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC is required to forward the report to the appropriate law enforcement agency for further investigation.

Penalties Under U.S. Law: First time offenders face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for simple possession of child pornography;[1] 5 to 20 years in prison for receipt or distribution of child pornography;[2] and 15 to 30 years in prison for producing or advertising child pornography.[3] Federal law also penalizes the online enticement of a minor for illegal sexual activity, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment.[4] Certain repeat offenders face a mandatory life sentence.[5]

International Cooperation
Formal partnerships exist between the U.S. and international police organizations such as Europol, Eurojust, and Interpol, as well as countless informal and effective relationships that also serve as mechanisms to share information in cases including those related to the exploitation of children. For an international cooperation effort to be successful, the relevant information must be provided to the appropriate authorities in a timely manner. Investigations of computer-facilitated crimes against children are often time sensitive, either because a child is in imminent danger or because the needed data could be lost. One example of a cooperation model is the G8 24/7 Network of contact points, which facilitates cooperation in investigations involving electronic evidence that require urgent assistance from foreign law enforcement. In investigations involving computer networks, it is often important for technically literate investigators to move at unprecedented speeds to preserve electronic data and locate suspects, often by asking Internet service providers to assist by preserving data. The G8 24/7 Network allows participating states to do so by supplementing traditional methods of obtaining assistance.

How To Address Problem Websites That Appear To Be Hosted in the U.S.
Foreign governments/officials should start by contacting the Legal Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in their country.[6] Actionable information received by the Embassy will be sent to the Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and/or FBI for further investigation.

Specific web addresses with harmful content can also be reported directly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber Tip Line at: www.cybertipline.org.

Who To Contact for More Information

Office of the U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy
U.S. Department of State
Tel: (202) 647-5212

Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Tel: (202) 514-5780


[1] 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(2) ; 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2)
[2] 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1) ; 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1)
[3] 18 U.S.C. § 2251(e)
[4] 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)
[5] 18 U.S.C. § 3559(e)
[6] A full list of Legal Attachés (LEGATT) can be found at: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/111812.pdf



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