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Biden to sign new bipartisan law targeting child ‘sextortion’ online

In World
May 04, 2024

On March 25, 2022, Jennifer Buta learned that her son, Jordan DeMay, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It happened just hours after the 17-year-old was a victim of “financial sextortion,” targeted by two brothers from Nigeria who posed as a young woman online.

The brothers, who were extradited to the U.S. and pleaded guilty last month to one federal charge of conspiring to sexually exploit minors, taunted DeMay to end his life after they tricked him into sending a sexually explicit image and then demanded he pay up.

Buta joins an unfortunately long list of parents who lost their children to sextortion and cyberbullying online. And Congress, where bipartisanship is increasingly rare, unanimously passed legislation to help keep that list from growing.

President Joe Biden will soon sign that bill into law, which will modernize and streamline how child sexual abuse material is stored and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), adding new reporting requirements and increasing fines for failures to report.

Joe Biden delivers remarks (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file)

Joe Biden delivers remarks (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file)

“I am immersed in all of this. It has become my life to talk about Jordan and share his story in the hopes that his life will save another child’s life,” Buta told NBC News on Friday. “Financial sextortion is the fastest growing crime amongst our teenagers and change will happen when someone is held accountable for what’s happening to these kids.”

The REPORT Act was introduced by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., as well as Reps. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., Susie Lee, D-Nev., Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Madeleine Dean, D-Penn.

“It is monumental and also completely unanimous,” Blackburn told NBC News in an exclusive joint interview alongside Ossoff in the Capitol on Wednesday.

“Social media platforms were not having to report bad actors that were in their space. And then when they were reported, there was a time limit on how long they can hold that information and then restrictions around how they could transfer it,” she said.

Once the REPORT Act is signed into law, which is expected within the next week, online platforms and social media companies will be required to report child sex trafficking and online enticement to NCMEC’s tip line.

The NCMEC cyber tip line is currently overburdened. But the new law will help alleviate some of those issues by expanding how long evidence submitted to the tipline is preserved and allowing tips to be transferred using modern technology, like cloud storage, to transfer and store it for the very first time, the chief legal officer for NCMEC told NBC News.

“Ensuring that reported content is retained for 1 year allows sufficient time for NCMEC to handle deconfliction and other analysis to reports to help prioritize and provide information to law enforcement about report content,” chief legal officer Yiota Souras said in an email. “It also provides law enforcement with crucial additional time to investigate, serve search warrants on companies for additional information as needed, and more.”

The bill is the first major piece of legislation that would put enforcement and accountability mechanisms on social media platforms in years, according to the senators.

“This is a historic moment in the history of legislation to protect children online,” Ossoff said. “There’s no worse nightmare for any parent than for a young child to be preyed upon or, God forbid, trafficked or enticed by online predators.”

Buta said the bill, along with others under consideration by Congress like the Kids Online Safety Act, could have helped save her son before it was too late.

“I receive an overwhelming number of messages on my social media platforms from parents who don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to report and even when they do report,” she said. “It’s not going anywhere, so to have this piece of legislation in place, where there’s a streamlined order for things to be done, I think will help parents report things.”

“It will help kids feel comfortable that there is a place to report things,” Buta added. “And not feel like their voice is being lost somewhere because of the volume” of cases.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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