Press Releases

Kuster, Gonzalez Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Safety on Mobile Apps

Today, Reps. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16) introduced the Protecting Our KIDS Act, legislation that will allow mobile applications to better identify registered sex offenders on their platforms and protect their users. It has been over a decade since federal legislation was passed to address the risk posed by sex offenders on the internet, and the Protecting Our KIDS Act reflects the significant changes in technology that have emerged during that time—in particular, the widespread use of smart phones and other mobile technology.

“With technology constantly evolving, Congress has an obligation to ensure the law keeps pace and covers all emerging digital platforms that could be exploited by sexual predators,” said Congresswoman Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “I’m proud to partner with Rep. Gonzalez to introduce this bipartisan legislation, which would require registered sex offenders to now report their accounts on social networking platforms like mobile apps. Our bill will also mandate this information cover all apps and platforms, regardless of the age of their users. Every American, from a child using a video app to an adult using a dating app, deserves to know they are not being exposed to or interacting with sex offenders."

“The spread of online child exploitation material and the way that social media has enabled online sexual predators are some of the most troubling issues facing our society today. Technology is evolving faster than the legislation and law enforcement tools that we have in place. It is imperative that Congress take action to update our laws to match new technology, support our law enforcement working to find and prevent these crimes, and create partnerships with leaders in the technology industry,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “I thank Congresswoman Kuster for her continued partnership on this issue, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside her and our colleagues in Congress to move this legislation forward and keep our communities safe.”

"The only thing that changes faster than technology is predators' ability to exploit it," said RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. "We thank Reps. Kuster and Gonzalez for leading the effort to ensure the National Sex Offender Registry keeps pace with the many new avenues for exploitation child predators now have at their disposal."

“Match Group is proud to be the first major tech company to support the Protecting Our KIDS Act,” said Shar Dubey, CEO of Match Group. “This bill is especially meaningful for me, both in my day job and as the mother of a teenager. Keeping our communities, online and in real life, safe is a social imperative that requires everyone to play a role. This bill provides much-needed tools to further the societal goal of keeping minors away from danger. I would like to thank Representatives Kuster and Gonzalez for introducing this legislation and our partners at RAINN for supporting this. We call on other stakeholders to support this critical legislation and we look forward to its passage.”

Passage of the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act (“KIDS Act") in 2008 required the Justice Department to collect internet identifier information from sex offenders and create a secure system that permits social networking sites to compare the internet identifier information contained in the National Sex Offender Registry with the internet identifiers of their users. The information is excluded from disclosure to the general public. In accordance with the KIDS Act, Justice Department guidelines require sex offenders to provide information such as, email addresses, instant messaging addresses, telephone numbers, and any other designations used for “routing purposes” in the context of internet communications, but this does not address more recent digital platforms like mobile applications.

The Protecting Our Kids Act would:

  • Require registered sex offenders to provide the Justice Department with the identifiers, account names, and device information they use on social networking platforms, to include mobile applications.
  • Expand the definition of “social networking websites,” for the purposes of the National Sex Offender Registry, beyond just those that serve “a substantial number of minors,” in order to cover dating apps and other platforms used primarily or exclusively by adults.  
  • Instruct the Justice Department’s Inspector General to provide a report to Congress on the implementation of this legislation, as well as the KIDS Act of 2008.   

The Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, of which Rep. Kuster is a co-chair and Rep. Gonzalez is a member, works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and violence. The Task Force’s areas of focus include: K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment, and law enforcement training. Congresswoman Kuster has long been a champion for survivors of sexual violence, sharing her own personal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers.

Bill text is available here.