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Lawmakers ask AG Barr to make prosecuting obscenity, child porn 'criminal justice priority'

Lawmakers ask AG Barr to make prosecuting obscenity, child porn 'criminal justice priority'

Congressional Republicans are asking Attorney General Barr to enforce existing obscenity laws in order to reduce explicit porn that meets the legal test to be considered obscenity, particularly porn that involves minors.

In a letter that was exclusively shared with National Review last week and signed by four conservative Republicans — Jim Banks of Indiana, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, and Brian Babin of Texas — the lawmakers urged the Department of Justice to follow through Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign's promises to restrain the porn industry.

“The Internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral,” the letter reads.

“This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography.”

The letter also notes Barr's previous focus on obscenity cases when he served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, which, they say, decreased child porn in the nation. The representatives further urged the attorney general to declare prosecuting obscene pornography a "criminal justice priority."

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The letter laments that former Attorney General Eric Holder, in the Obama administration, disbanded the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the Criminal Division, which essentially stopped the enforcement of obscenity laws.

In recent years, 15 state legislatures have declared porn a public health crisis, often resolving to study its links to scourges such as domestic violence and human trafficking.

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In a comment to National Review, Rep. Banks highlighted such connections.

"As online obscenity and pornography consumption have increased, so too has violence towards women. Overall volume of human trafficking has increased and is now the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world," Banks said.

"Child pornography is on the rise as one of the fastest-growing online businesses with an annual revenue over $3 billion. The United States has nearly 50% of all commercialized child pornography websites. Pornography is ubiquitous in our culture and our children are being exposed at younger ages. Nine in every ten boys under the age of 18 have seen porn. Children are struggling with pornography addiction," he continued, speaking of the scope of the problem.

In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump signed the first-ever pornography pledge, which was spearheaded by Internet Safety group Enough is Enough.

Some say that given the ubiquity of porn, limitations are all but impossible and especially difficult given how quickly it has proliferated online.

The Federalist's New York correspondent noted Tuesday that the idea that "just because porn has moved from brick and mortar stores to the Internet means it can no longer be regulated, or that we don’t have the means to do so, is patently absurd."

"There is no magical protection from government oversight that poofs out of nowhere just because a product is sold online. The state has just as much right to regulate [website] Pornhub as it did to regulate the porn shops in Time Square."

"The mere viable threat of government action has made the vape industry confront and combat youth use in ways it hasn’t before. Applying similar pressure to the porn industry makes all the sense in the world."

In August 2018, a federal court ruling gutted a key statutory regulation on the pornography industry, a move anti-porn advocates said will likely increase the production and distribution of child porn.

Effectively dismantled in the ruling was U.S. Code Title 18 Section 2257, which required producers of pornography to maintain strict records on the ages of the porn actors in their films and to allow government inspectors to review those records at any time.

Scholars noted at the time that eliminating section 2257 has long been a goal of the porn industry because it affects the business model of the largest corporate distributors of porn, outfits that now source content from low-cost producers around the world.

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