A big step forward to stop the sexual exploitation of children in the digital world is taken today as the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) adopts a long-awaited report that will pave the way for a clear and harmonised legal framework on preventing and combating online child sexual abuse material.
MEP Hilde Vautmans (Open Vld, Belgium), Member of the LIBE Committee and the Renew Europe group's negotiator on the regulation, welcomed the vote:
"Until now, online providers have been relatively free to combat sexual child abuse as they choose, and the consequences have shown to be devastating. Last year, 1.5 million cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the EU. We need permanent mandatory European legislation to better protect our children online. I am pleased that the European Parliament managed to come together to secure such a balanced report. With this result, we will protect our children, but also guarantee privacy and confidential communications of citizens.
Online providers will be required to detect, report, and remove online child sexual abuse material on their services, and providers of games, pornographic platforms and services directly targeting kids will have to make their services safe by design. There will be no such thing as general scanning of communications, and nothing will undermine end-to-end encryption. This agreement is a major step forward in making the internet a safer place for children whilst upholding fundamental rights.''
The Renew Europe group pushed for mandatory measures, in terms of risk assessments and mitigation measures, for all providers of internet services exposed to online child sexual abuse. While a simplified risk assessment procedure will be possible for some small and micro-enterprises, all pornographic platforms, game platforms and services directly targeting children - irrespective of their size or exposure - should have to conduct risk assessments to identify and mitigate any significant risks. Service providers must then introduce proportionate and targeted mitigation measures in response to any risks identified.
Further, the report states that the technologies used to detect such material must be audited independently and that any targeting of detection orders is a measure of last resort and must be on reasonable grounds of suspicion.
Alongside this, the creation of an EU Center for Child Protection to prevent and combat child sexual abuse is at the core of the report.
Once adopted by the European Parliament in the upcoming plenary session, inter-institutional negotiations will be able to commence as soon as Council adopts its position.