Lee bill protects victims of image-based sexual abuse

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the PROTECT Act, which would require pornography sites to verify the age of all participants in pornographic images; require sites to obtain verified consent forms from individuals uploading content and those appearing in uploaded content; and mandate that websites quickly remove images upon receiving notice they uploaded without consent.

Sen. Lee’s bill comes as Utah law enforcement announced a 600% increase in cases involving child pornography and sexual contact with minors since 2020. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 35% increase in child sexual abuse material compared to 2020. Online pornography is one of the most lucrative and fastest growing industries yet has remained largely immune from regulation.

The PROTECT Act is supported by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which recently sent a letter signed by 200 survivors of image-based sexual abuse to Members of Congress, urging them to support the bill.

Of the bill, Sen. Lee said, “Pornography sites need to do more to prevent the exploitation that is occurring on their platforms and allow individuals to remove images shared without their consent. The PROTECT Act is a step in that direction.”

Of the bill, Terry Schilling, President of the American Principles Project said, “It’s impossible to fight against sex trafficking and CSAM without requiring more of the porn distributors themselves. That’s why American Principles Project supports Sen. Mike Lee’s PROTECT Act. Porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry that does little to nothing to prevent the exploitation of minors on its own platforms. This is an unacceptable status quo. The PROTECT Act would require porn distributors to know exactly who is featured in their content — and how old those individuals are — or face stiff civil penalties. The bill would also provide individuals with the right to request takedowns of content featuring their own likeness. It’s time to crack down on the online porn industry’s rampant and systemic disregard for the rule of law. The PROTECT Act is a great first step, and we are proud to endorse it.

Of the bill, Elizabeth Woning, Co-founder and Executive Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs of CHANGED Movement said, There is a crisis of childhood sexual abuse in the U.S. Many of us at CHANGED who once lived as LGBTQ were sexualized as children by adults we trusted. The abuse negatively impacted our sexual identity and wellbeing into adulthood. Exposing children to porn or uploading their photos to online porn sites is child abuse. Thank you, Senator Lee, for seeking to protect the innocence of America’s children and holding those who sexually exploit children accountable.

Of the bill, Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation said, “In an instant, anyone can become a victim of image-based sexual abuse. When child sexual abuse, rape, sex trafficking, or prostitution is filmed and circulated without the permission of those depicted—or when videos made by hidden cameras, deep fake images, or leaked photos are uploaded without consent—survivors have no rights under federal law to get this material removed. Websites distribute and monetize this material, enabling millions of users to watch criminal content or consume deeply personal material. Survivors of these horrific crimes often spend hundreds of hours trying to get it removed from the Internet and for most, their efforts are in vain. The Protect Act would ensure that federal law supports victims of image-based sexual abuse.”

Of the bill, Nicole M. Bell of the Living in Freedom Together (LIFT) said, “Surviving systems of prostitution and exploitation cause immeasurable harm and trauma. It takes a lifetime to heal from the violence experienced in the sex trade and that is without having to beg websites to remove images that were taken during your abuse. The Protect Act will eliminate the additional trauma that many survivors have to endure as the imagery of their abuse is spread across the worldwide web. Their abuse wasn’t consensual nor was the sharing of the images of their abuse. Stand with Survivors and pass the Protect Act.

Of the bill, Survivor Katelynn Spencer said, “When I found out there have been two sexual videos of me posted on Pornhub and other pornography websites for the past 12 years, not once did I feel protected by the law. There are no laws in my state to protect survivors of image-based sexual abuse, but if this bill was and is put in place, it could help so many survivors like me.”

Of the bill, Survivor Uldouz Wallace said, “Technology is updating everyday but the laws haven’t changed. We need the Protect Act because it will protect the future of our children, women, men and ensure that the internet is a safer environment.”

Of the bill, Survivor Victoria Galey said, “Online criminal enterprises have been allowed to flourish unregulated for over a decade. Technology has surpassed the reach of our current laws. The internet and technology have become weapons in digital violence. We desperately need a federal law to protect victims against online image-based sexual abuse including edited and deepfake content. The Protect Act would provide this protection. Similar laws have already been passed in other countries and the U.S. is falling behind.

For full text of the bill, click HERE.
For full text of the letter, click HERE.