On July 27, Congressman Jim Matheson joined colleagues in the United States Senate to unveil legislation aimed at making the Internet a safer place for America's children.
Legislation to be introduced by Matheson into the U.S. House of Representatives and Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln into the Senate follows the release of alarming findings in a report by Third Way, a centrist think tank and advocacy group.
The Utah congressman indicated the report reveals the startling fact that children ages 12 to 17 years old are the largest group of consumers of Internet pornography.
The report also finds that the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography on the Internet today is 11 years old.
According to the report, the industry admits that between 20 percent and 30 percent of its traffic comes from youth younger than the age of 18.
"I am proud to introduce this critically important legislation. The porn industry has infiltrated our homes and it compromises what can be an excellent learning tool for our children. It is inexcusable for Congress not to act. We must stop the industry from exploiting the Internet to expose our children to smut. Families should not have to do battle against this industry by themselves. They need a weapon that hurts and this bill is that weapon," noted Matheson.
According to the congressman, the federal legislation has two main features.
First, the proposal requires pornographic web sites to use the latest age verification software technology.
Second, the proposed legislation establishes a child protection trust fund financed by an excise tax of 25 percent on Internet pornography transactions.
Third Way has estimated that the so-called "sin tax" would generate $3 billion in annual revenue to help pay for tougher law enforcement, better blocking and filtering technologies and great education efforts to keep children safe online, pointed out the Utah congressman.
Software currently exists providing website operators with the ability to require the same proof of age that brick-and-mortar vendors require before selling pornography, explained Matheson.
However, only 3 percent of the pornographic website operators require age verification that goes beyond the "honor system," continued the Utah congressman.
"I stand with parents when it comes to holding the pornography industry accountable. Who better to pay the costs of protecting our children from Internet pornography than the industry that has made billions of dollars offering it?" concluded Matheson.