The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump Is Right to Sign Pledge Protecting Children from Pornography

Donald Trump recently signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge, promising to “uphold the rule of law by aggressively enforcing existing federal laws to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online.” Hillary Clinton refused to sign — citing a policy against signing any pledges — but said she agrees with its goals.

The pledge was created by Enough is Enough, a nonprofit which aims to make the Internet safer for children, primarily by combatting illegal pornography and sexual predation.

To this end, the pledge advocates aggressive enforcement of existing obscenity, child-pornography, sexual-predation, and sex-trafficking laws in order to prevent children from stumbling across hardcore pornography online or, more importantly, from becoming victims of stalking or trafficking.

The pledge states that signatories will enforce the Children’s Internet Protection Act and advance public policy to reduce the threat of Internet-enabled exploitation.

Trump’s support for this pledge seems somewhat hypocritical, given that he once posed on the cover of Playboy magazine. And there is speculation among many that Trump signed the pledge in response to the New York Post’s recently featuring two covers with nude photos of his wife, Melania.

All that said, given the available research on the harms of Internet pornography, especially on children, the Republican nominee deserves to be praised for his support of the pledge — if it is sincere. Concern about the link between Internet pornography and child exploitation — along with other societal harms — is well-founded.

The statistics contained in the pledge cite a number of recent studies — for instance, a third of 11-to-14 year olds have watched porn on a mobile device, and “teen porn” is the most-searched-for term on pornographic websites. Meanwhile, 53 percent of boys and 28 percent of girls aged 12 to 15 report using explicit pornography, mostly via the Internet. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 12.2.

From 2005 to 2011, there was a 774-percent increase in the number of child-pornography cases reviewed through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s child victim identification program. By the end of 2012, this program had analyzed over 80 million instances of child pornography since it began work in 2002.

A growing body of research shows a strong connection between the sex industry and sexual slavery and trafficking. According to one such article, many experts say that a quarter-million children are likely involved in various forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

Regardless of the debate over the harms of adult pornography use vs. First Amendment rights, the increasing number of children being exposed to pornography at such young ages, often accidentally, is surely a cause for concern. These costs are real, and efforts to address them through public policy deserve serious consideration.

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