EU fails to uphold protection of children from sexual abuse online through technology

On the 21st of December the European Electronic Communications Code came into force, which widened the scope of the EU’s e-Privacy Directive to include emails and private messaging. The effect has been that technology used by Service Providers to scan messages for child sexual abuse material and patterns of grooming, and which supported takedown of such material and prevented predators from approaching children online, has now become illegal. Several service providers, including Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Roblox and Yubo App, have expressed their commitment to child safety and intention to continue using the technology to take down child sexual abuse material.

The legislation is a massive blow to the fight against online child sexual abuse, in Europe and globally. At a time when the problem is growing exponentially, service providers are an indispensable ally in the fight against sexual abuse online. On a yearly basis, 17 million voluntary reports of CSAM and grooming of children are made to authorities, containing almost 3 million pictures and conversations from the European Union. In 2019, online grooming had tripled on certain social networks, according to NSPCC, and in spring 2020, Europol reported a surge in online distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) due to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

As child protection organisations we therefore welcomed the European Commission’s Strategy against Child Sexual Abuse, presented on July 24th 2020, which announced the intention to make reporting of online child sexual abuse by internet service providers mandatory. Privacy and child protection can go hand in hand. It is unacceptable that due to the e-Privacy Directive, as of today, children are left unprotected from situations of online grooming and unable to take back control over images graphically depicting their sexual abuse, until that legislation is in place, which could be several years down the line. For these children, the consequences may be life long.

 

We therefore commend the service providers who continue to uphold existing protections for their courage and encourage all others to do likewise. We insist that the European Parliament, Commission and Council swiftly agree on a temporary exception to enable tech companies to continue their voluntary reporting. In addition, we urge all stakeholders to work swiftly towards long term legislation that makes reporting and takedown of child sexual abuse material and grooming on their platforms mandatory for service providers.

 

“Every second and every child counts”, said Maud de Boer Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe and former UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. “We cannot let privacy law prevail over the need to scan and take down content of abuse of children”

 

 

Missing Children Europe

Eurochild

Save the Children

Women Against Violence Europe

Alliance for Childhood European Network Group

Victim Support Europe

Child Fund Alliance

SOS Children’s Villages Europe

Hope and Homes for Children

IFM-SEI

Child Helpline International

ChildFocus, Belgium

116000 Enfants Disparus, France

Fundacion ANAR, Spain

Smile of the Child, Greece

Telefono Azurro, Italy

Instituto de Apoio à Criança, Portugal

Fundacja ITAKA

ASTRA, Serbia

Kaapatut Lapset ry, Finland

Lasten Perusoikudet ry, Finland

Missing Persons Family Support Ctr, Lithuania 

Associaçião Portuguesa de Crianças Desaparecidas

Hope for Children




                                                                

 



This statement is still open to signatories. To support this statement please contact: secretary.general@missingchildreneurope.eu

 


 Missing Children Europe 
 Telefono Azurro, Italy  
 Eurochild   116000 Enfants Disparus, France   
 Women Against Violence Europe  Missing Persons Family Support Center, Lithuania  
 Smile of the Child, Greece  Instituto de Apoio à Criança, Portugal  
 Fundacion ANAR, Spain  ASTRA, Serbia  

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