Brussels, 10 September 2020
Child sexual abuse is a serious crime, both offline and online, with tremendous life-long consequences for the victims, that can haunt them well into adulthood.
Over the last years the number of reports of child sexual abuse reports has enormously increased to reaching the staggering figures of nearly 17 million in 2019 – which included nearly 70 million images and videos, of which more than 3 million images and videos concerned cases in the EU.
The current COVID19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. According to the latest Europol Report, child sexual abuse online in the EU has increased and has become one of the top cybercrime threats, as a result of the lockdown measures put in place during the COVID19 pandemic.
The European Commission last July 24th published a Communication on the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. This is a comprehensive policy document that encompasses all forms of child sexual abuse, with a strong focus on child sexual abuse online, laying out specific legislative provisions to take to tackle more effectively these crimes.
The European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights has been extremely vocal over the last year to step up the EU action to find a coordinated response to the fight against child sexual abuse, both offline and online, and included specific provisions in the European Parliament Resolution on children’s rights in the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,
“The EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, presented by the European Commission last July and that we are going to discuss today in LIBE Committee, represents the outcome of the productive dialogue that the Intergroup on Children’s Rights, and me personally, have established with Commissioner Johansson since the very beginning of her mandate. We do need more EU also in the fight against this serious and unacceptable violation of fundamental human rights, which strongly affects the most vulnerable ones in the most severe way as we heard from a child survivor during our last webinar hosted with Commissioner Johansson. Prevention, protection and persecution shall be the target of a coordinated and holistic European response to these crimes, in order to ensure the full respect of the rights of the child, as enshrined in Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union” – said MEP Caterina Chinnici, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights
Today, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on a temporary derogation from certain provisions of the ePrivacy Directive as regards the use of technologies by number-independent interpersonal communications providers for the processing of personal data and other data for the purpose of combatting child sexual abuse online.
“I strongly welcome the legislative measures taken by the Commission today, which will ensure that companies can continue the voluntary detection of online child sexual abuse. Nevertheless, more will be needed. Child sexual abuse knows no border and poses numerous challenges. Only with a coordinated multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach, we can bring about real change in the fight against child sexual abuse. I am fully convinced that an EU Centre to combat and prevent child sexual abuse will be a major added value in the fight against these heinous crimes, as it would help coordinate the efforts of the law-enforcement authorities, facilitate the sharing of best-practice amongst EU Member States with specific research and data and last, but not least, will also ensure that child victims receive appropriate support” – said MEP Hilde Vautmans, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights.
A growing number of online services providers have been using specific technological tools on a voluntary basis to detect child sex abuse online in their networks. The law-enforcement agencies all across the EU and globally have been confronted with an unprecedented spike in reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online, which go beyond their capacity to address the volumes now circulating, as they focus their efforts on imagery depicting the youngest and most vulnerable victim. Online services providers have therefore been instrumental in the fight against child sexual abuse online.
“I welcome this legislative proposal that allows online services providers to keep making use of technological tools to detect child sexual abuse online, as a step forward in the right direction to fight against child sexual abuse online. The cooperation with the private sector is essential if we want to succeed in eradicating child sexual abuse online, identifying the perpetrators and the victims. It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that online services providers are held responsible and prescribe a legal obligation for them to make use of technological tools to detect child sexual abuse online, therefore enabling them to ensure that their platforms are not used for illegal activities” – said MEP David Lega, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights.
“For far too long, paedophiles online have exploited the anonymity given by the Internet and encryption technology to abuse children, without facing any legal charge. These type of criminals are master manipulators and it is our duty to end impunity by bringing them to justice and better protecting child victims. In a world of ever-changing technology, we need to build a future-proof response against child sexual abuse online, where all actors take their share of responsibilities. Online services providers must make use of technological tools to detect child sexual abuse material and report it to the authorities to save children’s lives!” concluded MEP Antonio Lopez Isturiz, Vice-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights, Secretary General of the EPP.
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For more information contact:
Cooridnator of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights