When Attorney General Bill Barr first served as head of the Justice Department under former President George H.W. Bush, he led a crackdown on the hardcore pornography industry — particularly that involving children — which featured prosecutions of distributors and producers under obscenity laws, the Washington Examiner reported.
Now, four Republican members of Congress have sent a letter to Barr urging him to make the criminal prosecution of obscene pornography a top priority once again.
Call to action
“The internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral. 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,” wrote Republican Reps. Jim Banks (IN), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Mark Meadows (NC), and Brian Babin (TX).
They went on: “Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large. This phenomenon is especially harmful to youth, who are being exposed to obscene pornography at exceptionally younger ages.”
The letter, first obtained by National Review, noted that obscenity laws are already on the books and merely need to be more strictly enforced, something to which Barr has been committed in the past.
Despite existing prohibitions against the distribution of obscene pornography on the Internet, cable and satellite TV — or by other means — the Examiner noted that prosecutions in this realm were dramatically curtailed during the Clinton administration, and the DOJ Criminal Division’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was essentially disbanded during the Obama administration by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
The members of Congress pointed out in the letter that then-candidate Donald Trump signed a pledge in 2016 vowing to use existing obscenity laws to crack down on hardcore pornography and urged Barr to follow through and make good on that campaign promise.
It was further emphasized that 15 state legislatures have already deemed pornography to be a “public health crisis.
“Given the pervasiveness of obscenity it’s our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material,” they wrote, according to USA Today.
In an emailed statement to National Review about the members’ request, Banks said: “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.”
He went on:
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.
The Examiner noted that aside from Barr’s prior record of taking strong action against obscene pornography in the early 1990s, he has already overseen several major busts related to child pornography as part of the Trump administration, including the October arrest of more than 300 individuals involved in an international child pornography ring.
Whether Barr heeds this call to step up the efforts to combat the production and distribution of obscene pornography remains to be seen.