A Department of Justice program directed at digital crimes against children has had its funding cut to levels significantly below that of the Trump administration.
The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces made up of over 5,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies “dedicated to investigating, prosecuting and developing effective responses to internet crimes against children,” according to the program’s website.
Funding for the DOJ program has been reduced by President Joe Biden’s administration.
In 2022, the first full fiscal year under Biden, the Internet Crimes Against Children program budget was cut nearly $3.5 million, from $34.68 million to $31.2 million.
This is in spite of the sharply rising incidence of child sexual abuse and exploitation found on social media sites.
Earlier this year, Comparitech reported that social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and others have been removing “millions of posts and images that fall foul of community guidelines regarding child abuse,” but they all reported that the number of such offenses is has been taking a sharp upswing.
The internet safety organization Enough is Enough tracks reports of child sex abuse and child pornography and works to educate the public on these issues.
Their report on the latest statistics showed a drastic rise in cases reported, involving younger and younger children.
In 2022, the organization reported, a government tip line received more than 32 million reports containing more than 88 million images or videos related to child sexual exploitation.
“Over the past fifteen years, the number of reports of suspected child sexual abuse materials … made to the CyberTipline has increased by 15,000%,” the organization said, citing a 2021 report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The ICAC funding cuts also raised concerns about the Justice Department’s commitment to fighting child trafficking, especially after news reports recently emerged regarding the removal of “International Sex Trafficking of Minors” under ‘areas of concern’ from the criminal division of the DOJ’s website.
Two sections removed were “Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors,” which referred to over-the-border transportation, and “Child Victims of Prostitution,” the New York Post reported in July.
While the DOJ told the Post it had merely “updated” the site and insisted it “continues to place a very high priority on and devote substantial resources to fighting child exploitation and child sex trafficking, ” conservative politicians and child advocates were among those criticizing the move.
“DOJ’s blatant move to distance Joe Biden’s harmful policies from the global crime of sex trafficking should be no surprise to any of us who have seen the blatant sexualization and abuse of children this Administration is comfortable with promoting,” GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida wrote in a news release.
Victor Marx, head of the anti-human-trafficking Christian organization All Things Possible Ministries, told the Post, “The message we’re sending to our children and the criminals, and the women at large that are concerned is the administration doesn’t care.”
Marx said the Biden administration’s scrubbing of child sex trafficking information from the DOJ website is concerning.
“I think they’re trying to lower their culpability and responsibility,” he said.
“They’re having to lower and lessen their footprint and their position on this because believe me, it’s horrible and stories are going to start to come out.”
Marx, himself a survivor of child sexual abuse, said the information for victims and witnesses that had been on the DOJ website is crucial for victims as well as witnesses.
“It’s key from prevention all the way to arrest and prosecution on both sides,” he said. “Clear, accessible, and comprehensive information available to the public is key to raising awareness and fostering cooperation in combating these heinous crimes.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.