Brussels, 9 June 2020
Over the last few years, there has been a staggering increase in the cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation at an unprecedented pace. Last year alone, tech companies reported nearly 70 million photos and videos of children being sexually abused. According to Internet Watch Foundation, Europe was the global leader in hosting child sexual abuse imagery in 2019.
Given the scourge of child sexual abuse around the world, it is essential that the EU comes together to work out a common and coordinated solution to eradicate these heinous crimes and better protect victims.
Ahead of the upcoming EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, which the European Commission will adopt in 2020, MEP Caterina Chinnici, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights – together with Ms. Ylva Johansson, EU Commission for Home Affairs- are hosting an online webinar on Preventing and Combating Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: Towards an EU Response, to discuss the measures to take at EU level to combat child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The webinar featured a number of high-level speakers spanning from the EU institutions, – including HE Ferdinand Grapperhaus, Minister of Justice & Security of the Netherlands, Ms. Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, actor and Thorn Co-Founder Ashton Kutcher, Ms. Julie Cordua, Thorn CEO, Mr. John F. Clark, CEO of the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Ms. Nunzia Ciardi, Director of the Italian Polizia Postale & Ms. Jaqueline F. Beauchere from Microsoft.
“It is essential to work out a common and coordinated EU strategy that is holistic and involves the full range of stakeholders in government, industry and civil society. The EU should step up its action in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation, both online and offline. Given the cross-border nature of these crimes, it is more and more necessary to create an EU Centre for Preventing and Combatting Child Sexual Abuse, as we asked for in our latest European Parliament on Children’s Rights last 26 November 2019. This centre will make a decisive difference in the lives of children – no one can do this alone – and it will allow us to avoid duplications, harmonise response within Member States and better protect victims, thereby ensuring a coordinated EU response” – said MEP Caterina Chinnici, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights.
“Soon I will present a European strategy to fight child sexual abuse. This strategy will take into account last November’s European Parliament Resolution on the Rights of the Child. For crimes that span a continent, we need to think and act on a continental scale. We need a European Centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse and to support victims.” – added Ms. Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs
The current COVID19 pandemic has exacerbated the instances of child sexual abuse and exploitation online. Recent figures of Europol Report on cybercrime and disinformation amid the COVID-19 pandemic show an appalling increase of attempts to access illegal websites featuring child sexual exploitation material. Moreover, in some EU Member States there has been an increase in adult offenders attempting to initiate contact with children via social media during the lockdown measures. These alarming trends require urgent action.
“The prevention and investigation of the child sexual abuse online, as well as identifying victims is a priority for police authorities worldwide. International cooperation remains essential to tackling these horrendous crimes. Europol, as the EU’s law enforcement agency, provides 24/7 support to police; we host the Victim Identification Taskforce, which brings together law enforcement authorities from the EU and beyond to work on identifying and saving victims of abuse. We also work on producing multi-national preventive campaigns to raise awareness among children and their parents. It is worrying how we saw an increase of the online activity by those seeking and circulating child abuse material online since the beginning of the pandemic. It is time to act together as law enforcement and as a society. The cooperation between the public, civil and private sector is key to prevent these crimes from happening.” – said Ms. Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol.
“When I became the Dutch minister of Justice and Security and saw the statistics on the scope of online child sexual abuse, my first response was revulsion. Then, sadness and finally anger. Often, emotion is a poor counsellor, but not in this case. These emotions helped me develop a rigorous approach in the Netherlands with the private sector, and with web-hosting providers in particular, to fight online child sexual abuse. In order to prevent that child abuse content will shift to hosting companies in other Member States it is important that we join forces in the EU. We still have a long way to go. It is important that we all feel that grief and that anger, and maybe even the same revulsion I did, and protect all children as if they were our own. Because we can’t make it happen without a joint European approach” – concluded HE Ferdinand Grapperhaus, Minister of Justice and Security of the Netherland.
For media contact:
Emilio Puccio, Coordinator of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights