Adult Website Reporting Obligations Under Federal Law

Adult Website Reporting Obligations Under Federal Law


Adult website law can be complex. Adult website operators are required to keep specific records and submit certain reports under federal law. One such adult website law is Title 18 U.S.C. § 2257 (“Section 2257”) which mandates the compilation and maintenance of certain age records relating to the production of sexually explicit content. Another adult website law is not as well known, but equally important: 18 U.S.C. § 2258A. This federal statute requires “electronic communication service providers” such as hosts, forums, dating sites, tube sites, and advertising networks, to report any apparent violations of child exploitation laws, to the CyberTipline; operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”). What Violations Must Be Reported?Qualifying Adult website operators must report “apparent” violations of federal laws relating to child exploitation or child pornography. No specific definition of what constitutes an apparent violation is included in the statute. However, as discussed below, there are benefits to erring on the side of submitting a report in questionable cases. When Must the Report Be Made? Under applicable adult website law, the report to the CyberTipline must be made as soon as reasonably possible after the website operator obtains actual knowledge of any facts or circumstances that a violation of the relevant laws has occurred in connection with the operation of the site or online service. This means prompt reporting is expected. What Must the Report Contain? There are 2 types of reports that can be submitted: a public report, or a secure, private report by a registered adult website operator. The secure report permits uploading of images, and provides a receipt confirming the submission. Adult website operators can register with NCMEC by contacting its coordinator at The report must include certain categories of information: 1) Identifying information about the individual responsible for posting or transmitting the images, such as IP address, or email address (including any self-reported information submitted by the user). 2) Historical information about when and how the user posted the illegal content. 3) A description of how the violation was discovered by, or reported to, the service provider. 4) Geographic location information relating to the responsible user such as billing address, IP address, or zip code. 5) The suspected images themselves. 6) The complete communication relating to the suspected images, including any data, digital file, or other information relating to the transmission of information. What Other Obligations Apply? In addition to reporting suspected violations, adult website law requires that NCMEC reports be preserved for at least 90 days. The full contents of the NCMEC report must be maintained, along with any other images that are “coming led” or “interspersed” with the suspected images. Importantly, the statute does not impose an obligation to monitor any user or the content of any user. Moreover, there is no obligation to affirmatively seek out potential violations of the applicable laws. Why Should the Report be Filed? Affected website operators might ask themselves why they should get involved in submitting reports to law enforcement, relating to their users’ activities. The most obvious answer is because the law requires such involvement. Failure to report suspected violations is a criminal offense which can result in the imposition of substantial fines. Moreover, adult website operators can assert a form of legal immunity when they submit a report to the CyberTipline. Conclusion. Adult website law mandates compliance obligations with a wide variety of federal statutes and regulations. Among them are the statutes imposing reporting obligations to the CyberTipline. Adult website operators are encouraged to educate themselves about these important legal requirements.

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