Senator Cortese Bill to Remove Child Sex Abuse Material from Social Media Platforms Clears Committee

A bill by Senator Dave Cortese that creates civil penalties for social media platforms that circulate child sex abuse material passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night.

Under SB 646, social media companies would have two days to remove child sex abuse material — commonly known as child pornography — after it is reported by the victim or their legal guardian. Failure to remove the material after two days would make the social media platform liable for up to $200,000 in civil damages.

It’s time to stop waiting around for social media companies to put an end to digitized child sex abuse. Victims are further traumatized every minute that exploitative photos and videos are viewed online,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose).Under SB 646, social media companies would finally be forced to remove child sex abuse material from their platforms. This bill is critical to protecting young people and holding social media platforms accountable.”

Despite advances in technology, online child sexual exploitation is on the rise. In 2021, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline received over 29 million reports of child sexual exploitation — a jump of 35 percent from the previous year. Nearly all of those reports related to suspected child sexual abuse materials. A recent survey showed that 85 percent of respondents wanted policymakers to do more to stop this trend.

Victims of child sex abuse have a greater likelihood of suffering from self-harm, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders and substance abuse. Victims have also reported insomnia and panic attacks, which can create challenges with concentrating in school or sustaining employment.

In 2006, Congress passed Masha’s Law, which allowed child victims to recover civil damages against anyone who produces, possesses, or distributes any visual depictions of child sex abuse. Then in 2017, Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which closed a legal loophole that shielded social media platforms from liability for distribution of child sex abuse materials on their platforms. SB 646 holds social media platforms accountable for their culpability under FOSTA and allows victims to sue in state court under the civil remedies created by Masha’s Law.