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NGOs urge for changes in new EU legislation tackling online child sexual abuse

April 13th, 2021

The EU is working on new legislation to detect and remove online child sexual abusive materials. NGOs provide input and urge not to focus solely on child sexual abuse but also include child sexual exploitation. Service providers should change the design of their services to provide more safety for children

Online research for Child sexual exploitation by TDH ICT forensic research team. Photo Arie Kievt/TdH

EU holds open public consultation

Every year, millions of images or videos involving child sexual abuse circulating online are reported to the authorities. Those millions of images only represent the tip of the iceberg of child sexual abuse and exploitation online, which has further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Child victims of abuse and exploitation continue to be re-victimised years or even decades after the abuse, with their images recirculating online. The European Union (EU) will soon propose a new legislation to better combat child sexual abuse online by imposing some obligation on internet service providers, such as social media platforms to detect and remove those images and videos. In order to receive the views of EU citizens, civil society and companies, the EU has opened a consultation.

Four children's rights organisations (Terre des Hommes, CKM, IJM, Defence for Children) call the attention of the EU on a number of critical points to ensure that the proposed new EU legislation effectively protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. It is essential that children are at the centre of the legislative proposal. Among the key points, we strongly urge the EU:

Most important recommendations

  • To ensure that the legislation tackle all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation against children. The consultation questionnaire points to a focus on child sexual abuse to the detriment of other forms of harmful content, including sextorsion, grooming, non-consensual sexting and child sexual exploitation
  • To focus on preventative measures to prevent the harm in the first place, instead of the current focus on detecting and removing when the harm has already been done. This means that the EU legislation should require internet services to design their platforms and service with child safety in mind (e.g. more stringent age verification system).
  • Voluntary rules means no rules. Voluntary measures are not sufficient to address the issue. Existing voluntary measures are not transparent and do little to solve the issue.

See the full Position Paper on the proposed EU legislation on the detection, removal and reporting of child sexual abuse online and the establishment of an EU Centre

The position paper details seven key points in total for EU policy-makers to consider and call on the European Union to reconsider their approach to the legislation on child sexual abuse in line with those critical points

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